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One in four UK residents wouldn’t feel embarrassed about making a spelling mistake on their CV, according to new research by distance learning provider Oxford Open Learning Trust into the importance Brits place on spelling and accuracy.

Despite the fact that more than half (56%) would judge someone else based on their spelling, over a quarter of adults (26%) wouldn’t feel at all embarrassed about making a mistake on a job application.

Birthday cards rank even lower on people’s priorities, as almost half (47%) wouldn’t be bothered if they’d spelt something incorrectly.

However, women are markedly more concerned with spelling than men. In every one of the different situations people were asked about, significantly more women said they would be embarrassed about making a mistake.

For example, just a fifth of women said they wouldn’t feel ashamed of misspelling something on a job application form, compared to one in three men. A mistake on a work document would cause red faces for seven out of ten women compared to just over half of men (54%) and failing to spot one on an invitation would embarrass 62% of women and just 48% of men.

Even social media didn’t escape the trend, with 8.2 million women (31%) but only 4.5 million men (18%) likely to feel embarrassed about making a spelling mistake there, according to the research.

Overall, almost half (49%) of people agreed that being able to spell has become less important, thanks to the popularity of social media and the increased use of emoticons to communicate. Others were split between disagreeing or having no opinion on it.

The Trust also asked people which words they tend to make mistakes on, to create a list of the most difficult words for Brits to spell. The top ten are:

  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, said: “Whether this indicates a fall in standards is difficult to say, with multiple factors impacting upon people’s feelings about spelling, but the gender differences are very interesting.

“To see that so many people wouldn’t be worried about making a spelling mistake on a job application or CV is cause for concern though. In a setting where first impressions are so crucial, it’s important to understand the influence that spelling has in shaping perceptions.

“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.”

To test your own spelling ability, try Oxford Open Learning Trust’s quiz of some of the most commonly misspelt words:

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