People can’t spell

Oh what a tricky language we use.

  • grammer — how come so many people make this (almost ironic) mistake? grammar dammit, grammar!
  • peninsular — actually this is a grammatical error. Peninsular is the adjective describing a body of land surrounded on three sides by water. But so many people seem to think it’s the noun. No. It’s Mornington Peninsula — noun. The local paper down that way is the Peninsular Leader — adjective.
  • calender — it’s AR on the end. At one stage on the work computers we had a shared calendar called XYZ Calender.
  • acquarium — the other week the kids pointed out to me that there’s no C in aquarium. As in aqua. Okay, so maybe it’s only me that gets that one wrong.
  • I thought artifact was a typo, but apparently it’s a valid alternative to artefact.
  • seperate — nup, sepArate.

There’s lots of others, of course, but those are some that I see quite often. Maybe the world needs more spelling checkers. Or better education.

And don’t get me started on apostrophes.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

16 replies on “People can’t spell”

I must say I liked your creative spelling of ‘approximating’ in your previous post. Does that help?

I’ve always written “artifact”, never gotten in trouble for it and so I assumed it was correct. “Calendar” always gets me, I’ll admit to that one. Force of habit. Then again, I used to write “peaple” too. I think I should just give up.

Yeah. Another word that gets spelt incorrectly on the Web at least is “defintately” (should be “definitely”). And, of course, there are the people who have problems with “there/they’re/their”, “it’s/its” and “you’re/your”.

Calender is a real word – just not meaning a list of dates..


n : a machine that smoothes or glazes paper or cloth by pressing it between plates or passing it through rollers v : press between rollers or plates so as to smooth, glaze, or thin into sheets; “calender paper”


“there’s no C in aquarium”
So I guess it’s freshwater fishes for you then Daniel ;-)

.. or perhaps we need people who care more about correct spelling & grammar. so many people with whom i’ve talked about this simply say that they don’t care that it’s wrong!

.. says she who uses no proper capitalisation. hmm. that’s a conscious choice, though. i do *know* how to use capitals, i simply choose not to in casual computer conversations.

This is how I think of ‘artefact’ and ‘artifact’. They are both correctly spelt, but aren’t alternatives for each other. They have slightly different meanings, in my experience.

An artifact is a tangible thing. It can be any thing at all, but the word usually has an adjective that describes the artifact’s purpose or reason for being. For example, a cross is a religious artifact.

An artefact is a thing that is a by-product of some process that has been performed on something else. For example, coloured spots in a JPEG image that represents a photograph are artefacts of JPEG compression.

“Then” and “Than” – as in “more then 300 people attended”. I see it in the newspapers/media ALL the time and it drives me crazy…

this is for Daniel and Gavin…
Daniel I noticed you were guilty of this one.
Affect is used for the verb: it is going to affect you
Effect is the noun – The effect on you

I have never been able to get my head around enquire vs inquire (or enquiry vs inquiry) – as far as I can tell they are also interchangeable, at least according to any dictionaries I have ever consulted – must be a case of use whichever, depending on you mood

Here’s what I found about the enquire/inquire problem:
The traditional distinction between enquire and inquire is that enquire is to be used for general senses of ‘ask’, while inquire is reserved for uses meaning ‘make a formal investigation’. In practice, however, enquire (and enquiry) is more common in British English while inquire (and inquiry) is more common in US English, but otherwise there is little discernible distinction in the way the words are used.
In a lot of dictionaries, the 2 words are interchangeable.

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