Spell check: Five common types of spelling errors


Thanks to the development of technology and smart phones, most of us now heavily rely on spellcheck and autocorrect. Our brains switch off somewhat to our spelling when drafting messages, and manual spellchecking and proof-reading are becoming a distant memory.

However spellcheck and autocorrect do not pick up every error – they can be a great support in terms of helping us write quicker and more efficiently, however nothing replaces the quality control of the human eye doing a secondary proof-read.

There are five key areas where you should double check your spelling that often result from us typing faster and with more distractions:

1. British vs. American spellings

Your autocorrect is likely set to an American dictionary and spellings, is this your brand standard, or should you be using English spellings? Words like centre/center and travelling/traveling are the ones that might slip easily through and which you may not notice when skimming through a proofread afterwards. Make sure you set set your spellcheck to the right language permanently and rest easy that these simple errors can then be avoided.

2. Typos/autocorrect to the wrong word

This is another occasion whereby autocorrect may actually work against you, and you may not spot it when re-reading. This can happen quite often with peoples’ names which may be autocorrected to a more familiar/popular name, or a different word completely. It also happens with typos such as trail/trial which spellcheck will not pick up as they are spelt correctly, it is just a case of the wrong word being used. Take time when you re-read to make sure you avoid these.

3. Homophones

These are words that sound the same, they have the same pronunciation, but different meanings or spellings. Even though we often know the difference between these words, there can be a tendency to use the wrong one simply because we are writing at speed or whilst distracted and on autopilot. Common offenders might include: allowed/aloud, complimentary/complementary, to/two/too, advise/advice, new/knew. Hopefully you would spot these on your spellcheck though.

4. Articles

This is another one of those areas where we often make mistakes subconsciously when typing at speed, or when we start editing and changing words, without changing their associated article. These little errors are another of those that are hard to spot if performing a quick skim proofread, so look out for some of the classics, including: a/an, the/this/that, there/their – make sure you are using the right one!

5. Have vs of

This is not a group of errors, but one very specific one that happens to be a big bug bear of mine! One specific phrase that people love to use because phonetically it sounds right – ‘would of’ – this is not the correct phrase, it should actually be ‘would have’. This mistake has come about because once shortened ‘would’ve’ sounds very much like ‘would of’ when said out loud.

There are lots of other areas of course, and many common spelling mistakes to watch out for, but I just wanted to use this week’s post to highlight some of those that might slip past your spellcheck and autocorrect. If you wanted to know more, or share with your team, I run a variety of online workshops, including one on writing skills, which include a focus on spelling and grammar, so please do email me if you’d like to learn more: sam@footstepcommunications.com



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