I saw the spelling extrovert in a text, but I intuitively felt that the correct spelling is extravert.

I did a little research and read that extravert is commonly used in scientific/technical literature, while extrovert is common in non-technical usage.

From what I read, it seems that this is because in 1918 when the word extravert was becoming more popular and more commonly used outside of technical literature, non-technical people often misspelled it as extrovert because it was commonly paired with the word introvert.

Am I wrong if I choose to always (even in non-technical writing) spell it extravert because I think it is the correct spelling and that I think other people are spelling it incorrectly? Or does majority rule and am I wrong to not conform to the majority?

My question is more about the decision that I need to make (based on which alternative is right or wrong and why) than about this specific example of extrovert vs extravert. I've had similar experiences with other spelling and also grammar rule mismatches, so I'd like to be confident in my decisions in those other situations too.

-Does majority rule? Or are they technically wrong?

If majority does rule, at what point does a misspelling or a grammar error become correct? 50% saturation? 75%? Does the original simultaneously become incorrect at that point? For the example above, if extravert is incorrect to use in non-technical writing, at what point did it become incorrect? Because at one point it was the only way of spelling it, and was only pushed out of popular use by replication of the misspelled form.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jim, curiousdannii, Jason Bassford, kiamlaluno, Mitch Apr 5 at 19:01

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    If you’ve got a dictionary behind you- go for it. – Jim Mar 30 at 6:02
  • I'm not the OP, but I grabbed the nearest dictionary (Webster's New Collegiate 9th) and couldn't find anything about when a misspelling becomes correct or when the original correct spelling becomes incorrect. Is it somewhere in the pages of text in the front, about the history of the English language and dictionaries? I'm not gonna try and find it there with my weak eyes. More guidance, please. Thanks, @Jim – bof Mar 30 at 6:23
  • @bof I think Jim means that if I have the support of a dictionary that a particular spelling is acceptable then I should feel free to use that spelling however I wish. My issue is that the dictionary I checked shows extravert as correct only for technical usage, and extrovert as correct for popular/non-technical usage, so I don't really "have that dictionary behind me". However, the dictionary in my mind says extravert is always correct and extrovert is always incorrect, while the dictionary in this browser puts a red line under extravert, indicating that it is incorrect. – Gimme the 411 Mar 30 at 6:38
  • A Scientific American blogger here says that in 1918 a certain Phyllis Blanchard wrote a paper in which she translated extravertierte as 'extroversion'. The blogger feels sure this was an error. He notes the modern scientific/popular split between the extra- and extro- usages and claims that the most vociferous champions of extro- are keen Jungians, whereas the extra- users are the present day personality scientists. – Michael Harvey Mar 30 at 7:56
  • Is it technically wrong to spell "rough" and "laugh" and "though" and "might" with the letters "gh"? – Mari-Lou A Mar 30 at 7:57

According to the Google Books Ngram Viewer , the spelling with 'o' is preferable.

Though etymologically (according to EtymologyOnline) the word was spelt with 'a', the spelling was changed on analogy with 'introvert'.

So they (extrovert - introvert) make a good match.

I think this 100-year-old spelling doesn't need any change. Otherwise we must have changed the spelling of such words as ISLAND, DEBT, ADMIRAL, etc.

The choice of the spelling variant depends on the user (like TRAVELER/TRAVELLER, CACTUSES/ CACTI, etc.)

  • Thanks, this is much better. – Lordology Mar 31 at 10:41

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