This tag is for questions concerning the written representation of the English language, especially spelling and word breaks (including hyphenation).

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20
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3answers
4k views

When to drop the 'e' when ending in -able?

I've seen a thread that generally asks about Creating words with “-able” suffix But I don't think it answers my point, though they are admittedly dangerously close topics. When do you drop the 'e' ...
19
votes
5answers
1k views

Is “princessship” a real word? Are there any other words which have the same letter 3 times consecutively?

One of my friends argues that princessship is the only word which has 3 identical letter comes together (s) ,but I think there is no word such as princessship. Can anyone tell me whether this is a ...
19
votes
4answers
1k views

Why is Q used in some words instead of K or C

For instance in words Iraq and Qashqai? Are there any historical reasons for that?
19
votes
3answers
2k views

Where did the “ue” in “tongue” come from?

How I remember being told over and over how to spell tongue! I didn't understand it then; I don't understand it now. What evolution might put a silent "ue" at the end of a word?
19
votes
1answer
8k views

“Referer” or “referrer”

First of all, I'm speaking of webpage referral. Second, let me quote Wikipedia: The misspelling referer originated in the original proposal by computer "scientist" Phillip Hallam-Baker to ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Why don't Americans write “devor” instead of “devour”?

Why don't Americans write devor instead of devour to be consistent with the pervasiveness of using variations such as color and armor?
18
votes
5answers
9k views

Correct, clear, concise way to use “potato-potato” in writing

"You say tomato, I say tomato" and the song from the beginning. As an informal turn of speech, it can be used to show that two or more parties are talking about basically the same thing but not in ...
18
votes
3answers
867 views

Why is “definitely” so frequently typoed?

Definitely seems to be one of the most frequently typoed words in written English on the Internet, enough to bring somebody to create d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y.com. Simon Google says, in a completely ...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

Possessive of a word that is already possessive

If the cricket ground Lord's is a possessive, what if you want to describe something belonging to Lord's? Would you say "I was very impressed by Lord's's customer services"? It doesn't look right, ...
18
votes
4answers
54k views

“Spelt” vs. “spelled”

In the following sentence, should I say spelled or spelt: You spelt/spelled "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" wrong.
18
votes
3answers
39k views

Why is the word 'bologna' pronounced like 'baloney'?

Why is the word 'bologna' (as in a bologna sandwich) pronounced so differently from the way it's spelled? The word 'lasagna' isn't pronounced 'lasagney'... The American sausage is derived from a ...
17
votes
5answers
3k views

Correct spelling of “program”

I mostly have exposure to American English online. I am currently writing out a resume and need some help. In Australia, in general, we write programme to mean a schedule or community programme. ...
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Was the “Ye Olde Shoppe” ever used or is it just an ancient-looking construct of modern times?

Surely, if I were the owner of a shop selling archery goods and wanted to portray my shop as some kind of old-fashioned, high-quality traditional outlet, I might be tempted to call it “Ye Olde Archery ...
17
votes
2answers
619 views

“License” and “licence”

What is the difference between license and licence? Are both variations accepted in US and UK?
17
votes
2answers
5k views

Why does the 'b' in absorb change to a 'p' in absorption?

The question pretty much says it all. Why is "absorbtion" an incorrect spelling?
17
votes
4answers
9k views

“Focussed” or “focused”? The double consonant

Initially, my question was: is "focussed" or "focused" the correct past tense of "focus", but since this applies to a lot of words, I would like to generalize and ask: is there supposed to be a rule ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Creating words with “-able” suffix

What are general rules of thumb for creating adjectives with -able? I wanted to denote an object as having an ability to be tiled, but "tileable" and "tilable" both yielded as incorrect words by spell ...
17
votes
2answers
239 views

Space before apostrophe

In the 1928 Scribner’s (NY) edition of The Plays of J. M. Barrie, I’ve noticed an odd convention: where a contraction happens in middle of a word (e.g., “don’t” for “do n(o)t”), the apostrophe has the ...
16
votes
4answers
12k views

In a tournament, do I get a “by”, a “bye”, or a “buy”? [closed]

If there are an odd number of competitors at any stage of a single-elimination tournament, one player is excused from play and continues on as if he had defeated his (nonexistent) opponent. This is ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Why does the name 'John' have an 'h' in it?

I have always wondered this since I was little, and nobody seems to have asked or answered this before anywhere on the internet. What is the origin of the 'h', and why is it still with us?
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Wer, wie, was, wieso, weshalb, warum, all start with W in German. In English they don't, why?

Wer, wie, was, wieso, weshalb, warum. Wer nicht fragt bleibt dumm. This is the theme song to the German Sesame Street, IIRC It roughly translates to: Who, how, what, why, why ,why. If you ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

“Quyer” When and why did the spelling change so drastically?

The snippet above is taken from The Gentleman's Magazine (London, England), Volume 53, dated, 1783. It's only when you say Quyer out loud, do you realize what the word is. It is one of the ...
16
votes
3answers
67k views

“Thru” vs. “through”

Could anyone explain the differences between "thru" and "through"? Is the difference only in spelling? Is "thru" some sort of slang?
16
votes
3answers
8k views

“Todo list” or “to-do list”

I always thought it was a todo list, and quite a few places online refer to it as todo, but various spell checkers are telling me it should be to-do. The only meaning I could find was ...
16
votes
3answers
6k views

“Time zone” vs. “Timezone”

My spell checker shows that both "time zone" and "timezone" are correctly spelled. Which one of these is the correct one to use?
16
votes
1answer
14k views

I'm British, so should I take a rain cheque?

I want to write the phrase "take a rain cheque" and am British. Should I therefore use the British spelling of the word cheque, or respect the baseball origin of the phrase "rain check" and use the ...
16
votes
3answers
577 views

What is the origin of “in a jiffy”?

What is the origin of "in a jiffy"? Etymology online Dictionary says origin unknown but speculates that it was slang (cant) for lightning and dates it as 1785. Wikipedia agrees but adds that the ...
15
votes
2answers
42k views

“Successfull”/“successful” — is this a UK/US difference? [closed]

I would tend to write double-l, but Google gives me more single-l, so I'm guessing it's an Atlantic divide thing. And I guess all the other *full words.
15
votes
4answers
2k views

Why did they spell it “URL’s”?

I was reading this documentation file of some software and note the plural spelling of this abbreviation is “URL’s”. Why isn’t it “URLs”?
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is there a distinction between “its” and “it's”?

While I know technically the English language has a distinction because when there's a conflict between the possessive form and a contraction, the contraction wins. That is: Its is the possessive ...
15
votes
5answers
3k views

Why does the letter ‘o’ appear in the word ‘people’?

My two daughters demanded to know this. I speculated that it was artificially inserted, perhaps in the 17th-18th century, perhaps to make the word look more like populus, somewhat similar to the way ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

What's the deal with “fiery”?

How did English end up with the adjective fiery (instead of *firy) from fire, but miry from mire and wiry from wire? Are there any other words where the noun is -ire and the adjective is -iery?
15
votes
2answers
886 views

The U in “Glamour”

Why, in US English, does the word glamour retain its u while humour, neighbour, and others have shed it?
15
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5answers
137k views

Is there any difference between “offense” and “offence”?

"Offense" vs. "offence", which is more correct? If both are correct, are there any differences in shades of meaning and/or usage?
14
votes
2answers
4k views

“Oestrogen” and “oesophagus” — why are they spelled differently in British English?

Within Biology, there are some biological terms that differ in spelling between the British English and American English dictionaries. For example, oestrogen and oesophagus, as well as the word ...
14
votes
2answers
23k views

Free stuff - “swag” or “schwag”?

My company gives out free promotional items with the company name on it. Is this stuff called company swag or schwag? It seems that both come up as common usages—Google searching indicates that the ...
14
votes
5answers
6k views

How to spell [ʒʊʒd] and what does it mean?

I heard this strange word in American Dad over a year ago and it's been bugging me ever since. Not only do I have no idea how it's spelt, I have no idea how it could possibly be spelt. My only guesses ...
14
votes
1answer
5k views

“noone”, “no one” or “no-one”?

What is the correct form? Does context play a role? Are there noticeable trends towards the awkward "noone" or is it just a by-product of careless orthography on the Internet?
14
votes
4answers
21k views

“Real time”, “real-time” or “realtime”

Which of real time, real-time and realtime is correct when you are talking about seeing something as it happens?
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Descriptivism and widespread misspelling

If you search google for "fuscia" it asks "did you mean fuschia?". The correct spelling of the word is "fuchsia". (This was pointed out on the xkcd blog a while ago.) So enough people are spelling ...
14
votes
2answers
3k views

Why did 'y' disappear as an internal vowel in English spelling?

Why did the character 'y' disappear in favor of 'i' in English spelling? I've often noticed this replacement when merchants try to sell or advertise something as archaic or old-timey, writing wife as ...
14
votes
2answers
43k views

Why is the “L” silent when pronouncing “salmon”?

Why is the letter l silent when pronouncing salmon properly?
14
votes
1answer
13k views

Why is the “a” in “cocoa” silent?

Not being a native speaker of English, one of those words that tripped me up is “cocoa”. Besides having its vowels inverted from “cacao”; it also is pronounced exactly the same as “coco”, whereas ...
14
votes
1answer
484 views

Is this usage of “reign” correct?

Lately I've noticed increasing usage of the phrase "free reign". Is this a legitimate usage of the word "reign", or is this a corruption of the phrase "free rein"? I've been dismissing usages of ...
14
votes
1answer
45k views

“Queueing” or “Queuing”

Which spelling is better, queueing or queuing? Both words seem to mean the same (or am I wrong?), but there are two different spellings. My context is: Queueing Latency vs. Queuing Latency ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

Canadian spelling: why?

As a Canadian, I feel that our spelling tendencies—sometimes British, sometimes American—fit quite well with our geographic, historic and cultural placement between these two bigger countries. I have ...
14
votes
0answers
737 views

Graphotactics of possessive: the true reason for the apostrophe

I have some hypotheses for English graphotactics: 〈w〉 and 〈y〉 are optional positional variants (i.e. allographs) of 〈u〉 and 〈i〉, respectively, in digraphs that correspond with diphthongs or vowels: ...
13
votes
5answers
1k views

Why is “wavelength” one word when “wave height” isn't?

Why is “wavelength” one word when “wave height” isn't? As another example, wave speed is two words. But wavelength is only one word. What is the reason for this? In Swedish and other contructs, ...
13
votes
6answers
7k views

Why do non-native English users often spell “standard” as “standart”?

I've seen this incredibly often on StackOverflow, but also on a few other internet sites. "Standart" is an extremely common misspelling of "standard". Is there a reason in how English is taught to ...
13
votes
5answers
30k views

“Y'all” or “ya'll”?

I've seen it spelled both ways. Are both correct?