Idaho’s just desert [sic]

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Can’t spell? You’re in better company than you might think.

While the notional link between being good speller and high intelligence (or at least better reading habits) is statistically defensible, and less education or intellect often predicts poor spelling, neither correlation is rock solid. Notoriously poor spellers include the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Jane Austen. Hardly a dumb lot.

Brainpower aside, better spelling is worth pursuing. Poor spelling in resumes, business communications, and even love letters doesn’t leave the best impression. Much to language-lovers’ chagrin, some misspellings are so often made that over time, the incorrect becomes correct, such as “donut” instead of “doughnut.” “Tonite” seems to follow in its wake.

Mrs. Language Person is tearing her hair out.

Other regulars include separate (not seperate), congratulations (not congradulations), canceled (no double “l”), occurrence (not occurance or occurence), truly (not truely), and supposedly (not supposably).

Plus one of MLP’s peeves: A lot is two words, not one.

Oddly enough, the most popular misspellings vary across state borders, at least according to Google’s analysis. Thus 2016’s most commonly misspelled English words in the Northwest by state are:

• Desert (the yummy kind has a double “s”): Idaho, as well as California and Indiana

• Definitely (no “a”): Oregon and Louisiana

• Leprechaun: Utah and Arkansas

• Pneumonia: Washington, Missouri, and North Carolina

• Cousin: (no idea why) Nevada

• Vacuum (one “c”): Montana, Wisconsin, and Maine

• Ornery (not oneri): Wyoming

Other states’ No. 1 misspellings include beautiful, attitude, gray, guarantee, schedule, broccoli, maintenance, sergeant (not sargent), tongue, courtesy, appreciate, banana (must be the “n” count?), giraffe, maintenance, convenience, croissant, neighbor, February (note the first “r”), and schedule. That Alaskans can’t spell Hawaii (Hawaiians can’t spell boutonniere) isn’t so surprising, but how’s this one to top the list:

Massachusetts’ top misspelled word is (drum roll, please)... Massachusetts.

Want to improve your spelling in a few minutes each day? Try the quizzes at and’s e-newsletter.


Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network whose spelling may not be as perfect as her love of words. Contact her at

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