The Seven Deadly Spelling Sins

Because I am a writing teacher and a former editor, I am constantly exposed to the most egregious mistakes in writing, grammar, and spelling.  I am also seeing a lot of these mistakes online in social networking sites, blogs, and emails.  Because I try to be a nice person, I do not point these mistakes out to my friends, but it is time for me to write a blog post about them just for fun.  If you struggle with spelling, take notes!

1. There, their, and they’re

These are three different words, and they are not interchangeable.  “There” refers to a place and is the opposite of “here.”  “Their” refers to ownership of something.  “They’re” is a contraction that means “they are,” as in: They are having a spelling party.

2. To and too

“To” is the beginning of any infinitive form of a verb: to run, to be, to smile, to write, to blog.  Taking foreign language classes is the best way to drive this one home. It is also a preposition.  “Too” means “also” or “in addition to.”  It can also mean “in excess,” as in: There are too many shoes in my closet.  (Well, that’s simply not possible, but you get the idea.)

3. You’re and your

“You’re” is a contraction form of “you are.”  “Your” again refers to ownership (see “their”)

4. judgment

This word never ever (in the United States) has an “e” in the middle.

5. definitely

I don’t know why, but some 90 percent of my students have difficulty spelling this word.  There is it, in black and white.  Memorize it.  I have seen it misspelled as:

Defiantly, Definately, Definetley, Definitly

And so on.  I’m sure there are numerous variations to a bad spelling.

6. its and it’s

Again, we have a contraction.  The contraction means that two words have been combined, so “it’s” means “it is.”  Now, the tricky part is the fact that possession usually uses an apostrophe.  However, because this apostrophe is already taken for “it is,” “its” refers to possession in this case.

7. Lightning

This one is my personal pet peeve.  This refers to that giant flash of light in the sky that usually occurs during a rainstorm and is always followed by thunder.  However, I see many people spell it as “lightening,” which can refer to making something lighter, in color or weight.  However, it also means the dropping of the baby before a woman gives birth, and that’s what I always think of.  So, when people write on Facebook, “The lightening was fantastic last night,” I can’t help but wonder if they are relieved to have finally given birth.

I think my annoyance with misspellings comes from the fact that I was a champion speller in middle school.  In fourth grade, I studied my heart out and discovered that I had a knack for seeing large words in my head and then repeating them in front of an audience.  I won the fourth grade spelling bee with the ridiculously easy “limestone,” because we had gone into a sudden death round where the judges started picking words out of the dictionary.  That proud moment in my life led to my most embarrassing, when I proudly spelled a word at the district bee and accidentally added an extra “e” in the middle of the word.  I don’t remember the word, but I do remember that it was one I had been struggling with.  So, of course, the gods of making people humble made it so that I received that word, spelled it confidently thinking that I had nailed it, and then had my hopes dashed when upon trying to return to my seat, the buzzer indicated that I had flubbed.  After that, I still spelled well, but I don’t ever remember winning another competition.  I placed third in the school competition, but I was never the same after that humiliating experience.

image from Scripps National Spelling Bee via Wikimedia Commons

Do you have any spelling pet peeves?  What sorts of mistakes do you see your friends making on social networking sites?  Do you take it upon yourself to correct them?