Sometimes finding good words to stump spellers doesn’t require massive dictionary diving or consulting numerous word lists. In the era of social media, where people feel free to divulge much of their life online, they also, unfortunately, expose commonly misspelled words. They are not hard to find. I – the social media schoolmarm of the title – am drawn to these words like shiny things. And they are, ahem, rather illuminating. If you are an original poster or a commentator who misspells a word, I may pick up on it and use it to enlighten readers of this blog!

I found these words misspelled over the week of July 11th on some common social media outlets. These are good words to pay attention to…after all, you may find yourself stumbling over these, too…even if you are an expert speller. Trust me: every speller has their bugaboo! I’m not saying these words will show up in a bee at some point…but I’m not not saying that either.

  • Predominantly – This was misspelled in this case because it’s often easy to say this word quickly and not emphasize the second /n/ sound. And dominate is a word, so…couldn’t it be “predominately”? No. Penance for this original poster would be to spell the word…and pronounce it while spelling it, emphasizing that /n/.
  • Villainous – I almost gave this word a pass. After all, in this post’s context, the original poster was referring to a woman doing evil things (perhaps Cruella De Vil, pictured above?) The word was actually spelled villainess. And that is a real word and an exact homonym. It’s just that villainess is a noun, and villainous is an adjective. And the word was being used as an adjective. Here is an example of how knowing parts of speech is crucial to being a great speller.
  • Vain – A simple misspelling, and another homonym. It would have behooved this poster to know the difference between vain and vein. Or we just need to bemoan the imperfection that is voice recognition technology. It is possible, after all. (Actually, ditto that sentiment for the previous word too!)
  • Sweetie – Not sure what this word has to do with sweat, but it clearly influenced the spelling this original poster used, subbing in an errant a.
  • Gandhi – My heart goes out to this man. Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most influential figures of at least the 20th century, helping to bring independence to one of the largest countries in the world, from one of the most powerful countries in the world – peacefully! – and his penance is to have his name perpetually butchered by English speakers. Here’s the thing. We are much more used to seeing the letter combination gh in writing. It appears everywhere in English. The combination dh? Far less common. But in Hindi and many related Indic languages, it is common; in fact, it is actually a letter. So pay Gandhi and his followers and admirers proper respect by simply spelling his name correctly.
  • Voila – Derived from French, this is a condensed form of the French phrase “see there.” Which, when you say it, is exactly what you want people around you to do! The implication is “look at what a great thing this is!” It’s often spelled – and mispronounced – as if the v doesn’t exist, like “wa-la”. (To be fair, the \v\ is not prominent.)
  • Dying – The base of this word – the word die, meaning “to cease living” – is simple enough. But that ie switches to a y when you add an ing at the end. Fortunately, die is not alone. You see the same pattern in words like vie/vying, tie/tying, and lie/lying. If you can remember this group, you’re golden. (H/T to Joanne Rudling and her handy Spelling Rules Workbook for insights here.)
  • Germane – Actually, not a particularly easy word for most people, and certainly not a common one. Germane simply means “pertinent and appropriate.” When you interrupt a political debate with a comment about a great new type of candy you just tried, everyone around will wonder if your comment is really germane to the conversation. Just remember: the ending has nothing to do with the state of Maine.

Photo credit – Sarah Fontaine