Commonly Misspelled Words

absence with green check mark

Absence has two /s/ sounds. The first is spelled with s, and the second with c in the common -ence ending. This means that the word is identical to its close relation absent until it’s nearly over.

accommodate with green check mark

Accommodate has more double letters than we think is right, but we can be accommodating when we need to be. If the word needs two c’s and two m’s, then so be it. After all, it inherited them from its Latin forbears.

Remember too its vowels: an a to start, then two o’s to keep things soft and plump, and the word date at the end. (It's always kind to accommodate one's date with plenty of o’s and m’s and c’s after all.)

basically with green check mark

Basically is a trickster: there is no word basical, but to go from basic to basically we have to pretend like we believe there is.

English is very stingy with allowing words to end in -icly. You might go through life only seeing the word publicly manage to pull it off.

broccoli and zucchini with green check mark

Broccoli flaunts its double c’s and insists on keeping a single l even though we’re all pretty used to seeing those in pairs. Zucchini behaves similarly but throws an h in there too.

Both words get their double c’s from Italian. In that language, broccoli is the plural of broccolo, meaning “flowering top of a cabbage,” and zucchini is the plural of zucchino, the diminutive of zucca, meaning “gourd.”

cemetery with green check

Cemetery satisfies itself with only e’s as vowels until the final y. It seems to us a rather restrained spelling that is appropriate for such a solemn term.

committee with green check mark

Committee has many letters that hardly seem essential: a spelling with two m’s, two t’s, and two e’s is quite the doubling. Anyone who’s been on a committee may have experience with committees themselves sometimes being overpopulated by opinions, so we can consider that this word may be dealing with a similar issue.

consensus with green check mark

Somehow the letters of consensus came to one that said only one c was required, and that the other /s/ sounds should all be made by s.

definite and definitely with green check mark

Definite and definitely both have the word finite in them. There is no word finate, so definitely keep all a’s away.

misspell with green check mark

We can’t write about misspelling without addressing the word itself: misspell has two s’s, one for the mis- and one for the spell. Words sometime drop a dupe in a case like this, but misspell hangs onto both of the s’s and hisses at us to Pay Attention Dagnabbit.

plagiarism and plagiarize with green check

The second syllable in both plagiarism and plagiarize is pronounced like the second syllable of pager, so what is that ia doing in there anyway?

Both words come from plagiary, a now-rare word that can mean “plagiarism” or “one who plagiarizes.” The reason it’s useful to know is that plagiary rhymes with aviary, making the spelling of that second syllable make a bit more sense.

tomorrow with green check mark

Tomorrow starts with to, just like the word today does. The morrow part both rhymes with borrow and is spelled like it. (Morrow is an old-fashioned, literary kind of word that usually means “morning” or “the next day,” as in “See you in the morrow.”)

vacuum with green check mark

Vacuum has two u’s. It does not have two c’s or two m’s. We blame its Latin ancestor vacuus, meaning “empty, unoccupied.”