Grammar Spell Well, and Excel |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Spell Well, and Excel

Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.
—Thomas Jefferson to his daughter

If there are spelling and grammatical errors, assume that the same level of attention to detail probably went into the gathering and reporting of the “facts” given on the site.
—Randolph Hock, The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook

Don’t write naughty words on walls if you can’t spell.
—from the song “Be Prepared,” by Tom Lehrer

Here is another of our spelling drills. In keeping with our policy, these are words that you hear all the time. You’ll find the answers directly below.

1. They specialize in ___ with a focus on fashion and quality.

A) aparrel
B) apparrel
C) apparel
D) aparell

2. Listen to the ___ of the falling rain.

A) rythum
B) rhythum
C) rhythm
D) ryhthm

3. This ___ is important to help us qualify your needs.

A) questionnaire
B) questionaire
C) questionnair
D) questionair

4. “Smooth ___, Hoover!”

A) manuver
B) manuever
C) maneuvor
D) maneuver

5. The seller retains ownership until the final ___ is paid.

A) instalment
B) installment
C) installmint
D) instahlment

6. Ancient Troy was captured by an elaborate ___.

A) stratagim
B) strategim
C) strategem
D) stratagem

7. Jerry’s ___ behavior embarrassed the ambassador.

A) asinine
B) assinine
C) asanine
D) asinyne

8. I walked a mile in my ___.

A) mocasins
B) moccasins
C) mocassins
D) moccassins

9. Trace your ___ to learn more about your family.

A) geneolagy
B) geneolagey
C) geneology
D) genealogy

10. That shy student from Bogotá, ___, became her husband.

A) Collumbia
B) Colambia
C) Colombia
D) Columbia


1: C) apparel

2: C) rhythm

3: A) questionnaire

4: D) maneuver

5: B) installment

6: D) stratagem

7: A) asinine

8: B) moccasins

9: D) genealogy

10: C) Colombia

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

11 responses to “Spell Well, and Excel”

  1. Kamal Taylor says:


    I got all of the spelling words correct except number 5; installment. I chose instalment. This forced me to look it up online where I discovered that Merriam Webster, the old arbiter of the American language, likes installment too. It’s not that instalment is an incorrect spelling though, it’s just not the preferred American spelling. Instalment is primarily British, and is the correct spelling per the OED. Can I still get credit for a perfect score?

    Love your column.

    • We score on the honor system, but consider this: Our 2014 Webster’s does not recognize instalment—and our email spellchecker is now angry with us for typing it.

  2. Annie konesni says:

    Is this the appropriate way to use commas? “I’m going to sky zone today, with my best friends, for my birthday”?

  3. Ingrid W. says:

    Sorry to disappoint, but there are two spellings of ‘manoeuvre’:
    Maneuver (American English), manoeuvre (British English)
    I am SO upset that you only gave the American English reply. The Americans were responsible for bastardising our language, not the other way around!

    Otherwise, the quiz was a good one!

    • says:

      As we mention on‘s home page, “Note: This site and The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation represent American English rules.” We sometimes mention differences between American and British English where the differences are important. There are so many differing spellings of words between our two versions of English that it’s not within the scope of our book to cover them all.

      We are happy to hear that you enjoyed the quiz.

  4. Mary B. says:

    I tried to use the Grammar Blog to get help on whether the correct spelling of the color is gray or grey. I was not able to locate the form that the website referred to for grammar and usage questions. Will you please either give me some tips on how to better use the Grammar Blog, or answer my question, What is the correct spelling of the color, gray or grey?

    • You may use the search feature on our website or on our “Grammar Blog” tab to locate rules, guidelines, or articles of interest. Once you have located a blog post containing information related to your question, click on the title of the post. If the post itself or our answers to readers’ questions don’t answer your question, you may use the form at the bottom to submit your question.

      We have not addressed the question of gray vs. grey, since both are acceptable spellings. In general, you’ll find a preponderance of the spelling gray in American English and grey in other countries.

  5. Herby Opland says:

    I’m struggling with an apostrophe issue.
    In South Africa we have a family, the Gupta family, which has been much in the news for exerting undue political influence. In headlines and articles they are referred to as the Guptas. Two members of the family resigned from a board recently. Which is correct:- ‘Guptas resign from Oakbay’ or ‘Guptas’ resign from Oakbay’. Regards, Herby Opland

  6. Sandy says:

    I am not surprised that I only got 3 correct. Actually, I am surprised I got that many! I was never taught phonics and, as mostly taught site reading; with a few basis “how to know rules. (sound out a word to figure out if it contains a double consonant; which doesn’t usually work for me considering I was taught to speak by a German mother with a VERY strong accent.)
    A funny: Until I met my husband in senior year, I thought “card”board” was “cow”board. The first time I said cowboard, he couldn’t stop laughing.
    I never write without my book marked dictionary thesaurus or spell check.
    I laughed while reading your “Media Watch”.
    I absolutely know that poor spelling and grammar creates the illusion of an ignorant content (even giving me that impression).
    I have embarrassing little knowledge of grammar, spelling, punctuation, ect. (hence my love for your website and blog) While reading a previous article, I had to laugh. I am an avid reader, but, lately I can’t seem to read a news article or book without seeing several mistakes. How can this happen when spell check will even show grammatical errors? If I can see it, it has to be REALLY bad!

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