Can You Pick Out the Misspelled Word in Each Sentence?



By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: izusek / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Perhaps you already knew this, but spelling is actually a very poor indicator of intelligence (and some of us have reason to be relieved about that!) Some of history's geniuses were very lousy spellers — even a few writers, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose incorrect spelling of "yacht," as "yatch," made it through to the published text of "The Great Gatsby."

Why, then, does catching sight of a mistake in writing automatically make us smirk, and usually think a bit less of the writer? Admit it: In the fevered debates that crowd the comments sections of the Web these days, aren't you a little less inclined to take someone seriously if they write, "Your arguement is bankrupt" than one who writes "Your argument is bankrupt"? Well, in part, it's a numbers game. There are more lousy spellers on the low-IQ end of the spectrum than the high-IQ end. Also, poor spelling can point to a lack of education, which casts doubt about the quality of the facts or the thinking skills a person is bringing to a debate. Finally, sometimes it just indicates sloppiness: The commenter might have known that "argument" is the right spelling, but never bothered to re-read his or her own sentence and catch the typo. 

With all this in mind, are you ready to test your own eagle eye for spelling errors? We've got a quiz to help you do just that; try it now!

Which word is misspelled? "The pair found a car to rent, but encountered difficultys with the stick-shift transmission."

Don't laugh at this one: One of the first things schoolchildren need to learn about good spelling is how to make a transition from singular to plural. That is, "difficulty" becomes "difficulties," while "beach" becomes "beaches." It's enough to make you wish we all used a language that didn't differentiate between singular and plural, except by context (Japanese, for example).


In this sentence, which word is wrong? "I take ofense at your critique of my spelling."

"Ofense" is properly spelled "offense." Also, would we stoop so low as so misspell the word "spelling" on a quiz about spelling? Probably not. Too on-the-nose.


Which is the misspelled word? "My teacher friend was gradeing papers."

This is an example of a common error: Failing to drop a final vowel when shifting from a simple present-tense verb to a present participle or gerund, the verb forms that end in "-ing." Fun fact: None other than Ernest Hemingway had trouble with this one.


Here, which word is misspelled? "She wanted to go to the debate, but had a prior committment."

This one's tricky, we admit. The double "m's" are supposed to be there, but not the double "t's." The root word is "commit," and the suffix "-ment" is added onto the word, as is.


Which word is misspelled here? "An abscess is a painful condition, but usually easy to treat."

Sometimes, being a good speller is learning to recognize that certain words, which just look strange, are in fact correctly spelled. Here, that word is "abscess." Doesn't it look as though either the first "s" or the "c" isn't necessary? However, that's really how the word is spelled.


Which word is misspelled? "I felt that her response was unnecessarily snarcky."

Yes, it's slang. But "snark" has been officially added to many dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster. Even before that, like many slang terms, it had a codified spelling, which doesn't contain a "c."


In this sentence, what is misspelled? "I was hoping for a heartfelt freindship."

"Friend": It's such a beloved concept, but such a potentially risky word! Not only is there the accidental switch-up of the "i" and "e" — the problem above, and a very frequent mistake — but you might also drop the "r," referring to your "fiend." Oooh, awkward.


In this sentence, which word is incorrectly spelled? "That Georgian mansion looks so beautiful with isicles hanging from its eaves."

The word "icicles" is based in the word "ice," hence its spelling. However, you can't count on this kind of consistency; it's not unheard of for letters to change when a word's form changes. This happens sometimes in geography. For example, the city is "Glasgow," but its residents are "Glaswegians."


Which word is misspelled in this sentence? "The word 'casserolle' can refer to the baking dish or the recipe it contains."

French words give everyone a bit of trouble. Here, the right spelling is "casserole," with two "s's" but only one "r." So which came first, the baking dish or the type of recipe? According to Merriam-Webster's site, the word "casserole" meant the baking dish first. The related French word "casse" means "ladle."


Which word is misspelled here? "Despite earning a lot of money, I was concerned about taking out a morgage."

"Mortgage," a word meaning a long-term loan on a form of real estate, has a silent "t." Sometimes, writers drop the "t' or replace it, erroneously, with a "d."


Which word is spelled wrong here? "Her freeweeling nature, once so appealing, eventually grew tiresome."

Of course, the correct spelling is "freewheeling." The image is of a wheel (possibly on a bicycle) turning on its own, without being pushed by the power train or hampered by the brake.


In this sentence, what is misspelled? "Knowing my mother-in-law was a meticulous housekeeper, I tidied up fairly throughly."

"Through" and "thorough" are a perpetual source of confusion for writers in the English language. Though it might seem like we've muddied the waters further by using the adverb form, we've actually made it simpler: Because "through" is an adverb in itself, it would never need an "-ly" suffix.


Which word is misspelled in this sentence? "After breakfast, you'll drive the kids to scohol in the Taurus."

Think this error — "scohol" for "school" — is too farfetched to ever be real? Think again! When a road-painting crew marked a "scohol" zone for motorists to be aware of, the photo went viral. It's since been fixed by the private contractor who did the original roadwork.


Which word is spelled incorrectly? "To diet successfully, it helps to elimminate processed foods."

The correct spelling here is "eliminate." It's easy to double the "m," or the "l," but that's not necessary. The root of this word is the Latin "limin," meaning "threshold." Something pushed "beyond the threshold" is eliminated.


Here, which word is not spelled correctly? "The engineer kept a weather eye on the pressure gage."

An instrument that measures levels of something, like pressure, is a "gauge." You might have been confused by the fact that as a man's name, the spelling is usually "Gage." Or by our inclusion of the word "weather," but a "weather eye" is a real thing, we swear! It means a wary or watchful eye — the kind you might keep on weather on the horizon.


Which word is misspelled in this sentence? "During our courtship, he tried to keep his nerdie tendencies under control."

Once again, we're defending the concept that slang terms can and do have agreed-upon spellings. The word "nerd" has long been recognized as meaning "smart, uncool person," and the adjective form is "nerdy."


Which word is misspelled here? "Don't delay in sending a sympathy card to the bereaved family."

Okay, "bereaved" might look a bit vowel-heavy, but that's actually the correct spelling. "Sympathy," is also right: It uses a "y" to represent the sound that we're more used to seeing as an "i."


In this sentence, which word is misspelled? "In operatic singing, the power comes from the diaphram."

Silent letters strike again! In this example, "diaphragm" is the correct spelling. The diaphragm is also the body part at fault when you get a case of the hiccups. It's just troublesome in a lot of ways.


Here, which word is incorrect? "The children were haveing fun, mugging for the cammera."

Just as words change form slightly going from singular to plural, they do so going from present-tense to present-participle as well (as we've mentioned elsewhere in this quiz). The correct spelling is "having." And "cammera" should be "camera."


Here, which word isn't spelled right? "After two hours of discussion, we still weren't aproaching consensus."

The correct spelling is "approaching." While you're here, take a good look at "consensus." World Book Dictionary cites it as a "common misspelling" — probably as "concensus," which might look right because it contains the word "census," which we know means "a count of people or citizens."


Here, which word is misspelled? "He loves tales of the wierd and macabre."

This is another "i-before-e" issue — or is it? The old mnemonic goes, "I before E, except after C, and when pronounced "ay," like "neighbor" and "weigh." Except none of that applies here, making the word "weird" even, well, weirder.


Here, which word is misspelled? "Seeing the goat in the road, he hit the breaks in time to stave off an acident."

The first word should be spelled with two "c's," "accident." The second word should be "brakes." You'll see this error from time to time, and it's another one that spellcheck won't catch, since there is such a thing as "breaks."


Here, which word is wrong? "I wanted to be a violinist, but my musickal skills hit a plateau."

This might have been correct about 300 years ago, if it's like "magickal." About "plateau": It's another French-derived word, and that pileup of vowels at the end really is the right way to spell it.


In this sentence, which word is misspelled? "Sorry, I gave up answering rhetorical questions for Lent."

Yup, that's really the way "rhetorical" is spelled, with an "h." Why is this odd statement included in our quiz? We're sharing it because it's our favorite response to annoying sales-pitch lead-ins, like "What if I told you that your family could own a vacation timeshare for the cost of only a few nights out at the movies?" (Try it; it's surprisingly fun).


Which word is not spelled correctly? "The candidate was too thin-skinned to take critisism in stride."

We doubt this one was hard. "Critisism" just doesn't look right at all; in fact, it looks wronger than any misspelled word preceding it. Wait, now "wronger" looks wrongest! Oh man, we're just making things worse!


Which word is spelled incorrectly? "Rain is approaching; you mite want to take an umbrela."

The proper spellings are "might" and "umbrella." "Mite" is a word the spellchecker wouldn't catch, as it's a real word in its own right, referring to a small arachnid. FYI: "Approaching" can be a tricky one as well, but we dealt with that elsewhere in this quiz.


In this sentence, which word is wrong? "I didn't date in high school, largely due to my reticense."

"Reticence" means "shyness" or "quietness." The adjective form, "reticent" is often erroneously used for "reluctant." While they're not worlds apart in meaning, you'll know "reticent" is being misused if the speaker adds the helper verb "to." That is, you're "reticent" overall, but you're only "reluctant to" do something.


Which word is spelled incorrectly here? "When the attorney wouldn't stop grandstanding, the judge held her in contemt."

Silent letters: They move among us nearly invisible, wreaking havoc on good spelling! Here, a "p" is missing: The correct spelling is "contempt." When confused, remember the more common word "attempt," which also has a silent "p."


Here, which word is misspelled? "The tragic novel 'Frankenstein' ends up on the Artic subcontinent."

Here, at least, you can't blame a silent letter. Pronounce "Arctic" properly, and you'll hear the "c" we left out of the spelling above. The same holds true of "Antarctica" and "Antarctic."


Which word is misspelled? "After the rugby game, the combatants were exhilerated."

It really seems as though "e" is the right vowel in that position, doesn't it? But the correct spelling is "exhilarated." Also, don't @ us about using "combatants." We've watched rugby games, and it doesn't just have "players," it has "combatants."


Which word is misspelled in the following sentence? "A skilled orator, she could drop her voice in an instant from a clarion to a murmurr."

If you got this one wrong, you might be thinking of a cat's "purr," spelled with two "r's" at the end. Alternatively, someone might misspell this tricky word as "murrmur." Perhaps it would help if we hyphenated it: "mur-mur."


In this sentence, which word is misspelled? "My favorite kind of horror movie is one about demon possession."

If anything tripped you up here, we imagine it was the word "possession." But it's true: All those "s's" belong in there! It's the same with the root verb, "to possess."


Here, which word is misspelled? "To whome it may concern: Wednesday will be my last day on the job."

"Wednesday" is probably the hardest day of the week to learn to spell, and with good reason. We can think of few other words in which the consonant sounds are "flipped" in comparison to the spelling. Listen closely and you'll clearly hear "Wends-" not "Wed-ness" in the pronunciation. But here, it's the humble pronoun "whom" which is misspelled.


Here, which word is misspelled? "What your friends do is irrellevant; you should have higher standards for your behavior."

Welcome to today's edition of Things Everyone's Parents Used to Say! The misspelling above is "irrellevant," which should be written "irrelevant." In rarer cases, you'll see the "v" and "l" switched up: "irrevalant."


Here, which word is mispelled? "We wrote a quiz that we hoped was sufficiently challenging."

Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. That's right, we misspelled "misspelled," leaving out one of the "s's." So, we hope we've lived up to the challenge of providing you an interesting, tricky quiz!


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