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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

It’s just a typo

Updated: Jan 8

Miss Spelled miscommunication character

You pull up in front of a school and the sign out front advertises an upcoming event as follows:

Leteracy Night Dec 8th at 5:00

Would you question their teaching effectiveness?

Misspelling is a common form of miscommunication. It is unintentional and therefore leads to unintended consequences.

What are the negative consequences of misspellings?

A major negative impact is leaving an impression of carelessness. The credibility of the communicator suffers.

A misspelling on an application or a resume may prevent getting a job.

A misspelling in a written publication brings into question the accuracy of the content.

A misspelled document may lead to a medical error, a mistake with legal consequences, a business failure, or worse.

A misspelled text or email may lead to a damaged relationship.

Spellcheck doesn't catch typos that still spell a word - the wrong word.

In the writing chapter in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, I share the following story from my former class at Purdue:

“The students in Purdue’s Nutrition Communication course work all semester to prepare for a final presentation to a real audience. Years ago, a set of partners presented a food demonstration featuring healthy soup recipes to a community group. They had worked hard to modify and perfect old family recipes to share with their audience. They had found helpful nutrition information, shopping tips, cooking tips, and fun facts about the ingredients and recipes. To accompany their presentation, they created a full-color brochure complete with recipes and photographs. They invested their own money to have lovely color copies printed. It wasn’t until the presentation that one very small typo was found in a recipe. The instructions were supposed to tell the reader to “add” the next ingredient. However, the letter to the left of d on the keyboard, the letter s, was used instead and the word add became ass. Not an appropriate word choice for the elderly audience served by the local extension office. Spellcheck doesn’t find mistakes that form real words; only careful proofreading does. Uncorrected typos can make you feel like an …”

Note the misspelled tattoo on the character depicted in the illustration. Most misspellings can be edited but those are permanent!

What are some of the most commonly made spelling mistakes?

  1. How many consonants? Not knowing when to double a consonant leads to many errors. Commonly misspelled examples are accommodate and occurred. With two sets of double consonants, the variations are numerous. Alternatively, using two letters when only one is correct occurs as well, as in the word “until” often spelled “untill.”

  2. AEIO or U? Choosing the wrong vowel is another common mistake as in the word “separate” when spelled as “seperate” or “definitely” spelled as “definately.”

  3. Which consonant? Choosing the right consonant is also tricky at times. The most commonly confused are c and s. This occurs in words such as “consensus” spelled as “concensus” and “supersede” spelled as “supercede.”

  4. When is i before e? Even though you memorized “I before e except after c” you will see “recieve” incorrectly used.

  5. How many letters? Often, extra letters are added to a word or letters are missing from a word. This may be from how the word is frequently pronounced as in “mischievious” with an extra “i” at the end. Or, if the British spelling is used as in “judgement” instead of “judgment.” Examples of missing letters include “goverment” and “Febuary.”

  6. Which word? One of the most common errors is using the wrong word, especially one that sounds the same: too, two, to; you’re or your; site or cite; forward or foreword.

How can you prevent misspelled words?

  1. Use the dictionary! If you’re unsure how to spell a word, type it into your search engine and the correct spelling and meaning will pop up allowing you to make certain that you have chosen the right word and the correct spelling.

  2. Proofread! Allow time to elapse between writing and sending or submitting to double-check your work. Right after you write something you will read it as correct because you will read it as what you intend to say. Ask someone else to proofread important documents.

If you’re looking for a laugh… type “misspelled signs” into your internet browser and see what comes up.

Is misspelling a challenge for YOU?

I have created a quiz to help you identify your biggest miscommunication challenges. You can find a link to the quiz on my website at the top of the home page.

You will be sent a PDF that contains the quiz as well as solutions to overcome each one. Enjoy taking the quiz and seeing what your miscommunication challenges are. Put the solutions into practice and improve your score!

“Good English, well spoken and well written will open more doors than a college degree… Bad English will slam doors you don’t even know exist.” ~ William Raspberry

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