Words easily misspelled #12

I've been saving these up 'til there were enough of them to post:

As Heather noted in a comment to an entry last August, antidote and anecdote are often used in place of each other.

Here are some other common misspellings I've been seeing lately, along with some examples of misusage (the asterisk indicates the sentence is wrong). Some of these are especially tricky because the misspelling is a real word, so spellcheckers won't catch it. One is even trickier 'cause it's not actually wrong according to the dictionary. :)

  • whisp for wisp (but MW3 lists whisp as a valid variant spelling, sigh)
  • whither for wither (as in * "The plant whithered away"—especially confusing because "whither away?" is archaic-speak for "Where ya headed?")
  • eek for eke (* "He eeked out a living by fixing shoelaces.")
  • in tact for intact (* "The old manuscript was still in tact.")
  • This one's just a simple typo, but a very common one: out for our, or vice versa.

11 Responses to “Words easily misspelled #12”

  1. Anonymous

    I like the image of plants “whithering.”

    I know two people who use “barred” instead of “bared” when writing about someone showing their teeth. Since the people in question have known each other for many years, it’s possible one of them corrupted the spelling of the other, or that it was a regional variant. But it makes me flinch. Have you ever seen that usage?

  2. Twig

    Whoops, that was me posting that last comment. I shouldn’t be allowed to fill out forms this late at night.

  3. SarahP

    Just a week or two ago in a published story I came across “beared” teeth.

    Dunno about you, but I have no trouble bearing my teeth.

  4. David Moles

    I know all these and yet find myself making a disturbing number of these phonetic typos these days — okay, not anecdote for anecdote (since they don’t actually sound the same, I reckon that’s just ignorance) — but while I was proofing ASZAS I found led for lead in text I’d typed, and Howard Waldrop caught me spelling roared as roward, which isn’t even a word.

    I should have figured that just when I finally began to internalize English spelling, it would turn on me.

  5. David Moles

    Er, change that second </a> to an </i> if you get the chance, Jed…

  6. Hannah

    Now that you mention it…I kind of like “eeking out a living.” Just the right combination of struggle and panic.

  7. Michael

    Hannah, you’re right — “eeking out a living” does seem perfectly accurate.

    SarahP — you may be able to bear your teeth now, but you couldn’t have “beared” them. In the past, people bore their teeth (or not), and their teeth would have been properly described as borne (or not). Unless you think of your teeth as having been given birth to, in which case they might have been born.

    It hadn’t occurred to me before that being born (as in newborn) comes from the verb to bear. I don’t know why the e was dropped from that usage and not from others.

    Ain’t conjugations fun?

  8. Michael

    Is this now a “participlatory” blog?

  9. David D. Levine

    “He eeked out a living by fixing shoelaces” is incorrect, but “she eeked out a living as a horror movie actress” is correct.

  10. Joe


    “I know all these and yet find myself making a disturbing number of these phonetic typos these days — okay, not anecdote for anecdote

    Well, you apparently do substitute anecdote for antidote after all.

  11. Patricia

    My typos mystify me too. I typed the phrase:

    * lightly instead of likely
    * righter instead of writer (although I’d catch myself just as I got to the -er part)

    and a recent fav:
    “… however, remoately…”

    I thought…”as in separated by a moat” Ha.


Join the Conversation