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Kan U Spell - Survey

posted 4/8/2008 12:35:32 PM |
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WhiteSmoke Survey Shows Adults Cannot Spell Everyday Words - They Blame Cell Phones

Scripps National Spelling Bee Draws National Focus on What Adults Can't Do -- Spell

BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--When Scripps National Spelling Bee Competitors gather in Washington, DC on May 29 for the 81st national championships, young people from all over the US will sweat over arcane words ranging from accretionary to zeugma.

Yet most adults can't spell the ordinary words we use every day.

Words such as 'calendar', 'embarrass', 'questionnaire' and 'liaison' stumped adults in a random survey and spelling test of 18-60 year-olds by WhiteSmoke, Inc., developers of a turbocharged writing engine that relies on patented language processing technology to check spelling, grammar and punctuation in context.

'Referring' and 'definitely' also left a large percentage of the 2,500 survey participants scratching their heads, according to the English language grammar and writing software firm whose product also enhances writing by suggesting synonyms, adjectives and adverbs (

Despite the dismal spelling ability, nearly a third of the respondents reckoned their spelling was excellent and another 46 percent claimed it was good.

Adults were shown 20 words and asked to pick out the correct spelling. 'Calendar' was misspelled by 19 percent of people, 20 percent were clueless when it came to spelling 'embarrass' and 'referring' drew blanks from 28 percent. Another 38 percent had no idea how to spell 'definitely'.

Almost a third were stumped by the spelling of 'liaison' and 40 percent got 'questionnaire' wrong, followed by 'accommodate,' which was misspelled 38 percent of the time. Even 'receive' was misspelled by 15 percent of respondents who apparently forgot the lesson covering, "I before E except after C."

Fired for Bad Spelling

The study also provided insight into those who believe that their poor spelling is a detriment. One in five admitted to avoiding handwriting letters or notes because their spelling is so poor. Six percent said their spelling was so bad they had lost a job because of it and another eight percent reckoned they had been passed over for a promotion.

Though their spelling ability might be deficient, 86 percent of the participants think it is important to be able to spell properly and 89 percent said they were bothered by their colleagues' spelling errors.

Cell Phones, other Technology Blamed

Despite poor spelling performance and the fact that spellchecking technology has been around for decades it is not always used; only 59 percent said they rely heavily on their computer's spell check to get everything right. When asked why their spelling was not up to par, two-thirds blamed technology -- especially mobile phone predictive spelling and text speak abbreviations such as CUL8TR for see you later.

Amit Greener, vice president of sales and marketing for WhiteSmoke said: "It's surprising to learn that despite getting basic words wrong, a huge majority of adults regard their spelling skills as excellent or good and that only about 60 percent take full advantage of the very technology that can virtually eliminate this flaw from their writing."

He added, "Fortunately, broadcasting the annual National Spelling Bee on primetime, network TV with popular personalities hosting the event focuses attention on the importance of spelling. It's really an opportunity for parents to learn from their children."

While Evan O'Dorney clinched the National Spelling Bee championship last year with the correct spelling of "serrefine," most people can improve the spelling of the words they use daily with WhiteSmoke's three steps to perfect spelling:

1. Always use a spellchecker-- even if you handwrite a note, type uncertain words in an open document on your computer to run them through a spellchecker.

2. Intuitive spellcheckers are terrific timesavers. Nevertheless, no spellchecker is perfect. Print out important emails, letters and proposals and read them on paper. This is the best way catch mistakes you missed on screen. Ask colleagues, friends or family members to check too.

3. Pick one troublesome word a week and look it up on WhiteSmoke's online dictionary. Reading the definition, derivation and forms of the word -- singular, plural, etc. will help make the spelling stick.

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Apr 8 @ 12:36PM  
WhiteSmoke Spelling Quiz

Test your spelling of 12 words from the WhiteSmoke Survey. Correct answers and the percentage of those who got the wrong spelling appear below. The complete test is available at


a. Calendar

b. Calender

c. Calandar


a. Embarrass

b. Embaress

c. Embarass


a. Necassary

b. Necessary

c. Neccessary


a. Accomodate

b. Accommodate

c. Acommodate


a. Separete

b. Separate

c. Seperate


a. Occured

b. Occurred

c. Ocurred


a. Existance

b. Existence

c. Existance


a. Liaision

b. Liason

c. Liaison


a. Definitely

b. Difinately

c. Definitly


a. Ocurence

b. Ocurrence

c. Occurrence


a. Questionairre

b. Questionaire

c. Questionnaire


a. Referring

b. Refering

c. Refferring

1- a (19%) , 2 – a (24%), 3 – b (3.5%) , 4 – b (38%), 5 – b (27%), 6 – b (27%), 7 – b (30%), 8 – c (31%), 9 - a, 10 – c(29%), 11 – c (40%), 12 – a (28%)

0 Wrong - You are a champion speller

1 - 4 Wrong - Average - Use spellchecker and proofread carefully

5 - 8 Wrong - Use spellchecker, proofread carefully and learn one new word a week

9 - 12 Wrong - Use spellchecker, get someone else to proofread and learn one new word a week


Apr 8 @ 12:39PM  
I got 100, but knowing how to spell is a huge part of my job. Be that as it may..I always do a spell check..typos, etc., happen, so it really comes in handy.

Apr 8 @ 12:43PM  
Interesting..(did I spell that right?) stuff Words...I have to admit, despite the efforts of my mother...I have never been a good speller. Prally makes me look like a tard! Thank GOD for spell check!!
A greenie if you'll proof read this for me

Apr 8 @ 12:47PM  

Apr 8 @ 12:49PM  
I missed 3. Darn. Nice blog.

Apr 8 @ 12:50PM  
Good thing firefox browser comes with handy spell checker,hah! No,seriously I think its most important to me that I know how to spell well...must be the hidden stickler in me.

Apr 8 @ 12:59PM  
[ 100 ]...
It's more of a 'Usage' issue . .
Knowing the difference between :
Woman and Women . .
Eye..Aye..I..{ i }...[ i think i know how to spell..i just can't capitalize..!}

Apr 8 @ 1:01PM  
I learned to read Phonetically, so unfortunately I spell the same way. There is a certain writer on here who gets a laugh at some of my work, just because of my poor spelling. I have always relied heavily on Dictionaries growing up and my Mother who could spell.

When I had my own secretary one of the prerequisites was she COULD spell, so she could proof my admittedly poor spelling. Now I rely on Spell Checker.

I type because my hand writing is horrible at best. Never could write well no matter how hard I tried.

I can usually pick out the right spelling of a word, once I see it. Maybe I'll take the test later.

Good Blog

Apr 8 @ 1:33PM  
I gots a hunderd per cent on them thar words. I really did I just can't type LOL. Good blog Bruce and a kudzoo fer ye.

Apr 8 @ 1:37PM  
I can spell disestablishementarianism does that count??? at all?

I can't spell Xenophobe though bout half the time.. and sometimes tomorrow gets a few too many mmmmms.

LOL WoW IDK wut U mean!

Apr 8 @ 1:44PM  
I tuk it an got a hunnerd to. I shore diddint no I culd spel that good.

I meen spel that wel.

Mama always said I wuz purty smart.

Hey, WoW, most people don't even seem to have much command of the English language. Expecting them to spell correctly is being pretty generous.


Apr 8 @ 1:57PM  
True story...

In 1979 I got a writing gig for a video production company, that taped weddings and anniversaries, to write content for their brochure. I hammered it out on a typewriter and sent it to the client. As is common in proofreading, I read what I wanted it to say, not what I actually wrote.

After I delivered it, I got a call from the client who was laughing. I had inadvertently hit one key to the right of the one I should have hit. She said, "You and I both know our work is crappy, but our prospective clients don't need to know it."

They had an offering that included a commemorative tape of the wedding for the parents where the bride and groom thank mom and dad. It was called the "Special Dedication". I had typed "Special Defication".

Apr 8 @ 1:59PM  
Being a decent speller in a world full of emails and text messages is a frustrating thing indeed; I didn't take your quiz, because I read two books a week (on average) and can spell perfectly. It's a shame people don't read as much anymore, now with the internet and television providing such instant gratification; this is undoubtedly one of the largest contributing factors to poor spelling and adult illiteracy in the U.S. today.

An excellent and informative blog, WoW. A green thingy for ya.

Apr 8 @ 2:06PM  
Funny story, WoW...

I remember once I caught a huge ad right before it went to press that was for "Van de Kamp's Porn n' Beans, 4/$1."


Apr 8 @ 2:07PM  
I am a writer and I make boo boos like everybody else. I finally imposed some self discipline and kept Word open to do the comments for blogs in there for spell/grammar check, then copy/paste it in. It is not that I am anal retentive as much as it is that writing is my profession. I sought to avoid being embarrassed. Even then I would get overly spontaneous and fire something off only to discover that it was fucked up, usually the wrong word or leaving out a word.

Apr 8 @ 3:18PM  
Very interesting blog! I took the test and got them all right. I know many people that would have difficulty with it. The only thing in the article that I disagreed with was that people were trying to blame text messaging for their horrible spelling. I don't think that is fair, especially since when they were in school learning to spell there was no such thing as text messaging. They should have been taught the correct way to spell most of those words way before text messaging and cell phones were so popular.

Apr 8 @ 3:53PM  
fusrt i wil lern 2 spel den i wil lern 2 reed

Apr 8 @ 4:13PM  
O,ad gud blurg werds of wit,hears a grenn cockie 4 u

Apr 8 @ 5:25PM  
If people read more.....

Growing up I didn't have spell check or a cell. But I did read often and from that, literacy.
Great article B.

Apr 8 @ 8:15PM  
1 a and b

a. Calendar Days weeks and months

b. Calender A machine for applying a coating to fabric

2a. Embarrass

3b. Necessary

4b. Accommodate

5b. Separate

6b. Occurred

7b. Existence

8c. Liaison

9a. Definitely

10c. Occurrence

11c. Questionnaire

12a. Referring

What drives me nuts is this homophonic society. Folks who mix up "their" and ""there" , "hear" and "here"


Apr 8 @ 8:26PM  
Heh.. y'all... I'm not sposed to tell but Bruce can't even spell his own last name sometimes. shhhhhh don't tell him I told you k?

Apr 25 @ 6:27AM  
we both know i don't even need to take the test to know i can't spell for shit..........that thar fonix they used when they bused my ass downtown new york made a good reader but like Luna i spell like i read.......phonecticly

Apr 25 @ 6:55AM  
woo hoo. I got them all right...

@ Steve....Funny thing is, the other night I was IMing with him while I was doing a couple other things and my spelling sucked almost more than his did... well not so much my spelling but my trying to do too many things and not paying enough attention to my

Jul 26 @ 1:13AM  
Amazing how some people honestly can't spell the word "their". I have seen some people on here spell it with the "i" before the "e". It's like they think that "i" before "e" except after "c" applies.

Some other words that "e" comes before the "i" without the "c" are weird, height, and weight.

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Kan U Spell - Survey