THE BLOG
11/30/2011 09:36 am ET | Updated Jan 09, 2012

The Most Common Spelling Errors in College

By Sarah Fudin
Lehigh University

Most college students rely on the blessing of spell-check to prevent embarrassing misspellings on papers or in emails. In a perfect world, we could imagine that under every misspelled, handwritten word a cautionary red squiggly line would also magically appear. But, alas, that is no real possibility. And even if you're working with a word processor that catches your misspellings, you may fall victim to homonyms that can make any seasoned writer look like a careless dunce.

So, just to remind you to look out for these tricksters in your future writing endeavors, here is a list of some commonly misspelled words that can fool even the best of us:

Their / They're / There
It doesn't help that these three words are pronounced exactly the same way. Even if you edit aloud, your ear won't be able to catch the difference between these. All three have their rightful grammatical place in every sentence, and they're waiting for you to put them there.

Your / You're
Much like the homonyms mentioned above, this pair can fly under the radar of some word processors' spellcheck functions, so make sure you're using the right one. Your reputation as a good writer depends upon it!

Acquire
Most people slip up spelling this word by omitting either the "c" or the "q." Phonetically, these two letters can perform the same function: the hard "k" sound before the "wire" syllable that ends the word. Acquiring a good grade on an exam or essay will be a challenge if you don't remember to include both consonants in your spelling.

Referred
In general, consonants at the ends of a word are doubled when suffixes are added (e.g. omit becomes omitted, sit becomes sitting) -- but there are times when the consonant is left in its singular form (e.g. part becomes parting), and this can cause some confusion. If you're hoping to get referred as a good writer when applying for jobs, make sure to double your consonants when appropriate.

Conscience
The little voice inside your head that tells you what's right and what's wrong can sometimes have trouble telling you that the "sh" sound in its middle is achieved by the combination of "c" and "s." A good way to remember how to spell this word is to just connect the words "con" and "science." Just make sure you are conscious that you don't mix up this word with its equally tricky relative!

Grateful
Have you ever sent a thank-you note expressing your gratitude for a gift and found yourself wondering whether your were "greatful" or "grateful?" In some ways, the former (misspelling) makes a bit more sense -- the gift might have been great! It's up to you to avoid this linguistic quagmire. Be grateful we're here to help.

Bureaucracy
The trick to this word is remembering that simplicity comes first: Most misspellers tend to switch the "u" with the "eau," so remember that the simple, loner vowel comes right after the "b," not the other way around.

Judgment
If you've been to the United Kingdom recently, you may have encountered a spelling of this word that does not drop the "e" from the word "judge" before the suffix. Here in the USA, there is no alternate spelling, and the spelling without the "e" has always been the accepted one. As always, when spelling, use your judgment well.

Guarantee
The peculiarity of this word that tends to confuse spellers is the "u." Phonetically, the "u" is merged into the "a" to produce a short "a" vowel sound. We can't guarantee that you'll never misspell this word again, but if you pay attention, you'll be fine.
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If I've misspelled anything in my post, I accept all the snarky comments due to me. Do you're -- whoops! -- your worst, blogosphere!