More than half of UK adults (56 per cent) would judge someone based on their spelling, according to new research by Oxford Open Learning Trust.

The distance learning provider surveyed 2,000 UK adults, looking into the importance Brits place on spelling and accuracy and whether we feel embarrassed by our mistakes.

The results finds that a whopping 92 per cent of UK adults use some form of spellcheck to avoid mistakes, such as autocorrect, online spellcheckers and even dictionaries. When it comes to mistakes, Brits are most embarrassed by spelling errors in formal situations, such as on a CV and job applications, rather than on social platforms.

Three quarters of people (75 per cent) admit they would be embarrassed by a spelling mistake on their CV, however fatal errors have occurred as Oxford Open Learning discovers. Sarah Taylor, an account manager from Reading, faced an embarrassing situation when she spelt her own name wrong on her CV.

‘I realised my mistake and sent an updated CV but they binned the new one! They said that it would usually have been thrown out with a spelling error in it but due to the wealth of experience on my CV they decided to interview me anyway. Just goes to show that work experience goes a long way – I was fresh out of university, it was my first job and I was in it for nearly seven years!’

Chris Reith, a video director from York recalled a simple spelling mistake on his CV that left him red faced. ‘I spelt ‘minute’ wrong on my film CV when I was a young post-grad, the CV was titled ‘Art Director – 8 minuet short’. It worked out okay though as they thought I specialised in dance videos because of having ‘minuet’ in the title so I got a job from it. My agency let me know shortly after and I almost died. So embarrassing.’

Not surprisingly, more than 70 per cent of recruitment and HR staff say they would judge somebody based on their spelling. However, nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of those who work in recruitment and HR agreed that spelling has become less important.

For those working in office jobs, the research suggests it’s all too easy to slip up when sending out emails. Phil Parker had a cringeworthy yet hilarious encounter with his boss when signing off his email. ‘I now never sign off an email with ‘Regards’ after the time I accidentally wrote ‘Retards, Phil’ in an email to an old boss.’

A little less light hearted, Christian Dente, a senior account manager from Leeds received a pretty stern telling off when he mistook an important client’s name. ‘A long time ago, I emailed a very important client, calling her by her last name. Her emails always came up with her last name, followed by her first name, which confused me. My old boss spotted it straight away and was quick to give me a telling off.’

When it comes to work emails, respondents reveal that nothing is more embarrassing than making a mistake in an email to the entire company, as Emma, a digital media executive from Pudsey quickly found out.

‘I was looking for male models as part of a campaign with work, and emailed the whole company accidentally putting “we can orange a time slot” instead of “arrange”. I must have checked over the email before it was sent out to the whole company but missed my orange/arrange switch up. Within minutes I had people emailing me back and messaging me winding me up about it.’

Oxford Open Learning Trust also asked the nation which words they tend to make mistakes on, and results found the below words to be the top ten most difficult to spell:

1. Haemorrhage
2. Manoeuvre
3. Conscientious
4. Desiccate
5. Conscience
6. Nauseous
7. Embarrassment
8. Pronunciation
9. Mischievous
10. Minuscule

Dr Nick Smith, courses director and founder of Oxford Open Learning Trust, says, ‘It seems that spelling is becoming a less essential skill- thanks to the popularity of social media and the increased use of emoticons to communicate not to mention easy access to spelling automation tools.

‘Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to brush up on spelling ability through distance learning courses. For someone who finds they’re being held back at work or in applying for a new job, it can make all the difference.’

Test your own spelling ability with the Oxford Open Learning Trust’s quiz of some of the most commonly misspelt words.

Further reading on spelling mistakes

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