A lot is two words, not one.
Argument does not have an “e” like “argue.”
Awhile or A while can both be legitimate. The noun is spelled as two words: “I napped for a while.” The adverb is spelled as a single word: “I napped awhile.”
Believe follows the old “i-before-e except after c” rule. However, foreign, forfeit, sovereign, surfeit, caffeine, casein, codeine, either, geisha, inveigle, keister, leisure, neither, protein, seize, sheik, and Sheila do not.
Bellwether has nothing to do with the weather. A “wether” is a castrated sheep or goat that wears a bell and leads a herd. The lack of cojones made it less likely that the leader of the pack would stray.
Cannot v. can not: “Cannot” is a word, one word. Some word mavens insist that it is not supposed to be split into two words. This is weird, because "can" and "not" are legitimate words. I won't be pissed off if you can not go along with "cannot."
Carburetor has just one “a,” like “car.”
Cemetery does not end in “ary” or begin with “s.”
Changeable, unlike argument, retains its “e” so you know the “g” is soft, pronounced like “j.”
Collectible is not “able.” No rule applies here, just memory.
Coolly has a double “l” when it’s not a noun. When it is a noun, it’s spelled “coolie.”
Criteria v. criterion: Confusing these two nouns is a common error, even among highly educated people. “Criteria” is the plural of “criterion,” but many people aren’t even aware of the word “criterion.” If you’re discussing various requirements that must be met, use “criteria” but if you are writing about one major requirement to be met, use “criterion.” (During Sheila’s many years as a technical writer, one of her colleagues — an English major who graduated from a top college — was working on a software users’ manual that dealt with various criteria. But, when this writer referred to one criterion, she continued to use “criteria.” How did she graduate, especially as an English major?)
Deceive does obey the “i before e except after c” rule. So does receive, but not frequencies or science or species.
Drunkenness should have a double “n” when spelled by sober people.
Dumbbell has a double “b,” you dummy (not “dumby”).
Embarrass (ment) has a double “r” and a double “s.”
Epic is a big important book, poem, or movie. Epoch is an important era. You can write an epic about an epoch.
Exceed does not end with “cede.” Nothing exceeds like excess.
Existence does not have an “a.”
Flier is someone who flies (not “flys”). It’s also a leaflet, or a golf ball that goes too far. Airlines frequently say “frequent flyer.” They’re frequently wrong.
Flyer can be part of a proper name for transportation (“Radio Flyer,” “Flexible Flyer,” “Rocky Mountain Flyer”) or a sports team (“Philadelphia Flyers” and “Dayton Flyers”), or even sneakers (“PF Flyers”).
Gauge is a verb or a noun with a silent “u.” For the thickness of wire or metal, or the space between train rails, or the size of a shotgun, you can ditch the “u.” Gouge means to scoop, dig, swindle, or extort; or a tool for gouging.
Grateful has just one “e.” It’s not so great. It has the same root as “gratitude.”
Guarantee does not end like “warranty” except in a proper name like Morgan Guaranty Trust.
Harass has just one set of double letters.
Inoculate has no double letters.
Jibe (NOT Jive) means to agree. Jibe and gibe mean to taunt. Jibe also means to move a sail to change direction.
Layout is a noun. Lay out is a verb. A designer will lay out a layout.
Lightning is the spark in the sky, or part of the name of Lightning Source, the printer of this book. Lightening removes weight.
Maintenance has just one “ain,” unlike “maintain.”
Maneuver is a French-ish word, that’s easier to spell than the British version: “manoeuvre.”
Medieval refers to the MIDdle Ages, but is spelled more like “medium.” Some of those wacky Brits use “mediaeval.”
Memento reminds you of a moment, but the first vowel is an “e” not an “o.” Don’t ask why; just remember it.
Millennium was spelled wrong millions of times back in 1999 and 2000. It still is. It gets a double “l” and a double “n.”
Minuscule means mini, but it’s spelled more like “minus” (except when it’s being spelled by people who prefer “miniscule.”) Pick one version, and be consistent.
Misspell is frequently misspelled. It needs a double “s” but no hyphen.
Noticeable gets a silent “e” to keep the “c” from being pronounced like a “k.”
Occasionally has a double set of double consonants
Occurrence has two traps: the occurrence of double double consonants, and “ence” not "ance” at the end.
Pharaoh uses the “a” twice.
Plenitude is right. Plentitude is wrong, but is used a lot.
Possession possesses two double letters.
Principal is a school’s boss or the most important element of something. A principle is a rule or an important point.
Privilege is not edgy. It has no “d.”
Reevaluate does not have a hyphen.
Relevant is not “revelant,” “revelent” or “relevent.”
Separate has an “a” as the second vowel.
Sergeant, unlike the affectionate “Sarge,” has no “a” up front, but it does have a silent “a” later on.
Sleight of hand is a group of techniques magicians use to secretly manipulate objects. It’s not “slight of hand” or “slide of hand, “Sleight” comes from an Old Norse word for cleverness, cunning, and slyness
Supersede is not spelled like “succeed” or “precede” and may be the only “sede” word we have.
Threshold does not have a double “h.”
Until gets just one “l” even though it’s often a perfect substitute for “till.” Wilson Pickett sang, Wait Till the Midnight Hour or Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour, depending on who transcribed the lyrics.
Weird is weird because it breaks the “i before e except after c.” rule. Seize is weird, too.