So, is it any wonder that there are so many misspelled words considering that Shakespear spelled his name so many different ways? Of course ,a lot of this had to to with relative illiteracy of the era. If you didn’t write regularly, even if you knew the rudiments, you weren’t very likely to spell words correctly.
As an editor, sometimes words are so often misspelled the same way that I start to doubt my own senses and then I have to look up words that I know are spelled incorrectly. Here are a few words of the modern age that are misspelled frequently:
- burgundy (not burgandy for color or wine)
- indefinitely (not indefinately, received three times last week) if it’s not finite then it’s indefinite like infinity .
- no one (not no-one nor noone; this might be different in England)
- its (the most misused word ever: if it is blue, then it’s blue. If the ball belongs to it (the dog), then it (the ball) is its (the dog). Its ball rolled into traffic.
- twenty, thirty-something (twenty-two not twenty two)
- would of, could of: People say this: I could’ve gone to the store. (which should really just be “could have”) But because of the way we hear it, I’ve seen it spelled could of. Wrong wrong wrong. Could have. I’ve seen this in books, which tells me either the copy editor was inexperienced or the publisher didn’t have a copy editor.
- yeah is an informal form of agreement (yes) and yay, which is a cheer: Yay! We win.
And then there are the similarly pronounced words that have different spellings and meanings, called homonyms. Some commonly misused ones are:
- consul (a consul general or Canadian consul) and console (to sympathize with someone, or a panel or case that holds an item like electronics)
- aisle (what is between two rows of bookshelves) and isle (where we all want to go for a tropical vacation)
- altar (where we put our objects to worship) and alter (how we change our appearance to escape the law)
- brooch (what you wear as a decoration) and broach (what you do when you want to raise a subject)
- complement (how many you have–a complement of soldiers) and compliment (to praise–my you look great in your uniform)
- council (a group of people) and counsel (the adviser/counsellor you get when your marriage is on the rocks)
- gorilla (these guys use bananas) and guerrilla (these guys use guns)
There are many homonyms and a very extensive list can be found here, even ones that I’ve never considered or known. http://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html
I find it particularly bad when I read books that have many misspellings but it all depends on how good the publishers are at maintaining quality and if they care. Many small publishing houses do not even have copy editors and depend on (demand) the authors proofread their work. Of course everyone should always do that and hand in relatively clean copies. Still, when you’re looking at a story over and over again you are bound to miss some of your own typos. A second set of eyes is always best.