Watch your language: Commonly misspelled words

2 min read
First Published: 
Aug 2006

Key Learnings contained in this article:

We all know the spelling of English is erratic, illogical, and difficult. So which of these words are misspelled?

  • barbituates
  • callus
  • foreward
  • liquify
  • preceed
  • pruritis


If this word is mispronounced “barbituates,” it’s no wonder it’s also misspelled. The second ‘r’ should also be sounded.


The noun callus is to be differentiated from callous, the adjective.

The calluses on the champion’s hands came from years of playing golf without gloves.

Sociopaths are characterised by their callous attitude toward other people.


There is either forward or foreword. There is no English word spelled “foreward.”

Forward is the antonym of backward. The foreword to a book is literally “the word before”.


In the entire English language, there are only four words that end in -efy: liquefy, putrefy, rarefy, and stupefy. All the other words that have that pronunciation end in -ify.

Precede, proceed, supersede

There are only three words in all of English with that sound and in this class that end in -ceed: exceed, proceed, and succeed. There is only one word that ends in -sede: supersede. All others end in -cede, including accede, concede, recede, and secede.


Inexperienced people assume that all medical words ending with that pronunciation are spelled -itis. Pruritus is one of many exceptions.

Pruritus is pure Latin, from prurire, to itch.

Thanks to Edith Schwager, author of Medical English Usage and Abusage (Greenwood Publishing Group/Oryx Press).

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Ruth Whittington
CEO of Rx Values Group Ltd
MSc(hons), NZSRN
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