Don’t let bad spelling get you down

Some of us have got terrible spelling, some of us could recite the entire dictionary without mistakes! But we all have words that trip us up. Is that coffee complementary or complimentary? And when is an inquiry actually an enquiry? This list covers some of the most troublesome words.

accommodation Double c, double m

adapter writer who adapts, for example, a book for TV adaptor an electrical device

affect (verb) make a difference to, have an influence on effect (noun) change that is the result of something; (verb) = cause to happen, bring about

aficionado this is a Spanish word meaning fan, eg a football fan, a jazz fan. Often misused to mean expert

biased, focusing, focused these all have one s, not two

biannual something that happens twice a year biennial something that happens every two years

choose pick (present tense) I don’t know which dress to choose chose picked (past tense) I chose the red dress complementary combining with something to make a complete whole. complimentary means expressing praise, to pay someone a compliment. It also means something is added for free.

That lipstick really complements your dress. Not: That lipstick really compliments your dress ("Mmmm, beautiful dress", said the lipstick) My boss was very complimentary about my presentation Book seats mid-week and receive a complimentary hot drink

definite not definate

dependant noun. She died leaving three dependants. dependent adjective. The three boys were dependent on their mother

disc used for recordings, as in compact disc disk used in computers

discreet careful in order to avoid embarrassment discrete individually separate and distinct

embarrass double r, double s

enquire ask. I will go to the front desk and enquire about room service enquiry question. Hello, I have an enquiry about room service

inquire undertake a formal investigation. MPs will inquire into the controversy over Iraq inquiry formal investigation. They are launching an inquiry into the Iraq war.

flaunt show off, display. If you’ve got it, flaunt it! flout express contempt for. Driving so fast is flouting the law

ensure make sure. Please ensure that you fill out the form correctly insure take out insurance. It’s sensible to insure your car in case of road accidents

everyday an everyday occurrence every day I drink tea every day

forever means continually. I’m forever getting this wrong for ever until the end of time. I will love you for ever

forward direction foreword preface to a book

fulfil or fulfilment one l

harass one r, two s

home in on aim at, focus on, move towards He homed in on his target hone sharpen He honed his woodwork skills

independent with an e, not independant

install double l instalment one l

judgement, acknowledgement preferred to ‘judgment’ and ‘acknowledgment’

led not lead is the past tense of lead. It led to a lot of discussion

liaison i before and after the a. Watch this one, as it’s often not picked up in a spellchecker

literally word for word, without metaphor, without exaggeration. Not a replacement for ‘virtually’

loose adjective. Not tight loose verb. Release lose mislay; be defeated

millennium double l, double n

online one word, not on-line

program computer application programme TV, radio, etc

separate there’s an a in the middle, rather than seperate

stationary not moving The car was stationary stationery paper, etc. Tip from the BBC style guide - a cAR can be stationARy, papER is stationERy

unique unequalled, the only one of its kind. A thing cannot be “very unique”

unmistakable not unmistakeable with an e

There’s lots of resources available online, for example at The Times and The Guardian

Sue KeoghComment