Writers follow the conventions of spelling to save their readers the labor of figuring out which words they mean. Some misspellings simply look strange; others may confuse. The most common spelling error in college essays is confusion of the two little words it's and its. It's is a contraction of it is. Its is the possessive form of it. The second most common spelling error is confusion of affect and effect.
(1) To act upon or influence. The accident affected her significantly. (2) To feign or pretend. He affected an interest in boxing.
Something that follows from a cause or agent. The accident produced this effect: she refused to drive again.
To cause to come into being or to bring about. The protest effected small changes in the hiring procedures.
The Geneseo Psychology Department sees the following words frequently misspelled:
- biased (write biased sample, not bias sample)
- prejudiced (write They are prejudiced, not They are prejudice.)
- led (past tense of to lead, as in The results led the researchers to the following conclusions.)
- cited (The researchers cited several previous studies. Don't confuse with sighted or sited.)
Professor Robert Goeckel of Political Science notes that students confuse capitol and capital, bloc and block. For additional discipline-specific information about spelling, see:
The Psychology Department Writing Guide
Professor of History Bill Cook's list of commonly misspelled words.