21 words that might be making you look dumb at work

So you’re rushing to send out an end-of-day summary email to your boss, but instead of reading through it yourself and hunting for errors — or even using the good ol’ Spell Check feature — you just click “Send” to get it over with already.

Immediately following, pangs of nervousness start to set in as you click your “Sent” folder and re-read it … only to realize it’s littered with spelling mistakes.


You’re not alone: The Oxford English Dictionary compiled a list of frequently misspelled words based on the Oxford English Corpus, which is a digital collection featuring more than two billion English words. It allows us to trace the way the language is being used in the real world, plus where people go wrong with it the most frequently.

Here are just a few of the English words people seem to have the most trouble with, plus a memorization trick recommended by the folks at Oxford.

Have any of these words sabotaged your work emails?

Here are some words from Oxford’s list that may (or may not) have shown up in your business communication over email.


Oxford says people are spelling this as “acheive.”

Notice that the “i” is supposed to come before the “e” here, as Oxford pointed out in its “spelling advice” column.


This is often spelled as “buisness.” The dictionary hints that it starts “with busi-.”


This is commonly spelled as “collegue,” so Oxford emphasizes that there’s an “-ea- in the middle.”


People often lose the second “t,” accidentally spelling this as “commitee.” Oxford cautions that it’s “double m, double t, double e.”


An “a” works its way into this word as people spell it like this: “definately.” Oxford says to remember that it’s “-ite-” instead of “–ate-.”


People often lose the second “r,” spelling this as “embarass.” Oxford says both “r” and “s” are supposed to show up twice.


The sneaky first “e” is often left out of this word, as it’s spelled like “forseeable.” The dictionary says it starts “with fore-.”


So how do you think people spelling this word? “Jist.”

Oxford points out that the word actually starts “with g-” — you get the gist.


A “u” is often included here— this is being spelled like “honourary,” so Oxford says to remember that there’s a “-nor- in the middle.”


This is commonly spelled as “incidently,” but Oxford reminds us that this “ends with -ally.


The “d” often gets lost, as it’s often spelled like “knowlege.” All the dictionary had to say in terms of advice was “remember the d.”

Liaise, liaison

This is commonly spelled as “liase” or “liason,” so Oxford says it’s “remember the second i: liais-.”

Millennium, millennia

People spell this without including the “n” twice— as “millenium, millenia.” Oxford says that there are two of the letter “l” and two of the letter “n.”


People tend to add a “c,” spelling this like “neccessary.” Oxford reminds us that there’s “one c, two s’s.”


This is spelled incorrectly in multiple ways, as “ocassion, occassion.” Oxford says to include “two cs, one s.”

Preferred, preferring

These words are commonly spelled without the right number of “rs,” like “prefered, prefering.” Oxford says that the letter “r” occurs twice in each.


The “i” and “e” are in the wrong places here: “recieve.” Oxford says it’s actually “e before i.”

“‘I’ before ‘e,’ except after ‘c,’”…you know where this is going— remember the elementary school rhyme?


People commonly spell this as “seperate.” Oxford reminds us that there is a “-par- in the middle.”


People tend to spell this like “tommorow” or “tommorrow,” but the dictionary says it has “one m, two rs.”


People tend to forget about the “e” here: “unfortunatly.” As the dictionary points out, it actually “ends with -ely.”


The “h” is often dropped, as this is commonly spelled like “wich.” Oxford points out that it actually starts “with wh-.”

This article first published on November 6, 2017.