After having spell checked over 13 million web pages, and encountered over 5 million 'questionable' words, the TextTrust.com Editing Team has garnered a fair amount of spelling mistake expertise. Closer analysis of TextTrust's Top 50 Spelling Mistakes reveals some interesting insights into spelling mistakes.
What causes a word to be misspelled so often that it would make it onto TextTrust's Top 50 Spelling Mistakes?
The answer to this question has many elements. First, we have to recognize the characteristics of the data set that we are drawing upon. TextTrust Provides web site spell checking services, and our customer base is made up of organizations world wide that all share one thing in common. They recognize the value of creating a good impression for their web site visitors and therefore wish to eliminate all the spelling mistakes from their web sites. Incidentally, many of them have achieved higher search engine rankings as a result of their efforts. This common desire is not a reflection of their spelling abilities. Some of our clients are poor spellers, and some are excellent spellers. The majority of our clients, however, are businesses, with very few leisure, or recreational sites in our data set. Therefore, most of the words found on the sites will be from a variety of business related topics (e-commerce, hotels, law firms, banks, government, publishers, medical, consulting site, etc.). This is one of the main reasons why TextTrust's Top 50 Spelling Mistakes differ from other such lists.
Interesting, but what really causes a word to be misspelled?
In short, frequency and difficulty. A word may be used often (e.g. their, 7.4 billion uses), and only misspelled a small percentage of the time (0.31%), however, the end result is that it appears as a misspelling quite often (23.2 million times) due to its high usage, causing it to rank highly on our list. Alternatively, a word may be difficult to spell (e.g. definitely, misspelled 12.3% of the time as definately) and not have as high a usage (293 million uses), yet still result in a high number of misspellings (36.1 million times), causing it to rank even higher on our list. Keep in mind that regardless of whether a word is misspelled due to frequency or difficulty, it still creates a negative impression for the web site visitor and should be corrected!
A further look at the list reveals that about half of the misspelled word were made due to poor typing, and the other half due to lack of knowledge of how to spell a word. This is made obvious through misspelled words such as 'commerical'. The fingers are accustomed to typing 'cal' at the end of many words, and even 'ical' (practical, clerical, theoretical, mathematical, etc.). Therefore, the fingers almost automatically type 'commerical', as opposed to commercial (even though many words end in 'cial' as well, such as special, facial, racial, etc.). The key to determining whether a mistake is made by the fingers or by lack of spelling knowledge is often found in how a word is pronounced, or mispronounced, as it may be. The word commercial is never pronounced 'commerical', making it very likely that the misspelling is due to a finger fault. Whereas a word such as accommodate is often misspelled because of its rare usage of the double 'c' and double 'm' in the same word. The pronunciation of the misspelling is the same as that of the correctly spelled word, making it hard to detect as a misspelling.
Both types of errors can be very embarrassing on a web site. Fingers faults are often the most humorous errors, a classic example being the word 'public' which is often turned into the word 'pubic' on many government web sites. Our Editors have seen quite a few 'pubic meetings', 'pubic departments', and 'pubic health concerns' in their day-to-day work. It is alarming how many Universities spell word University incorrectly.
Here are a few of the incorrect variations we have seen on the spelling of the word University:
So much for higher education! Which brings up another interesting point... 'eduction' is a word, but it is used so rarely, that the misspelling of 'education' as 'eduction' occurs more frequently than the proper use of the word 'eduction'. TextTrust's web site spell checking algorithms have been programmed to identify such issues and flag them for review by our Editing Team. Since we're on the topic of education, here are a few amusing misspellings of the word:
A misspelling due to lack of knowledge has a more serious impact on the web site owner then a 'typo' style misspelling. A 'lack of knowledge' misspelling almost instantly undermines the organization's credibility. Misspellings such as 'Commision', when your organization is actually a Commission is tantamount to spelling your name wrong (incidentally, the word Microsoft is misspelled over 10,000 times on Microsoft's millions of web pages worldwide). There are of course two m's and two s's in commission. Here are some interesting variations of Commission related words:
And let's not talk about committees! Two m's, two t's and two e's. That is another word that has been abused in a variety of ways. In fact, the list of misspelling variations is too long to include in this article.
Words like 'thier', 'definatly', 'recieve', and 'realy' are obvious 'lack of knowledge' misspellings which cast a negative light on the content creators (and the organization they represent) by implying that they are uneducated and careless, evidenced by not bothering to spell check their work. Which brings up an interesting question. If almost every application has a spell checker built in, then why are there so many embarrassing spelling mistakes on web sites? The obvious answer is that these spell checkers are not being used. But why? A good question, and one which the TextTrust.com Editing Team has many theories about. Looking for an answer? Stay tuned, we'll have one posted shortly.
Questions and comments welcome.
Source: The TextTrust.com Editing Team
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