The Spelling Society asked Press Contact last September to help create a news story both here in the UK and the USA. After the success of their UK spelling survey in May 2008, the Society were keen to repeat the model in the USA. It's tricky undertaking a news story from the UK, pertaining to the USA. Press Contact agreed but said that we should also concentrate on getting coverage here in the UK too - as a back up.

Press Contact engaged the services of Ipsos MORI in January 2009. Using the same model used back in May 2008, MORI surveyed 1000 Americans on the question of spelling. The survey included questions such as 'do you or a member of your family have trouble spelling?' and 'would you be confident to fill out a job application form without the help of a spell checker?' These questions were followed by a spelling test utilising ten everyday words. The test was then followed by opinion statements such as - 'do you think spelling is worse now than it was ten years ago?' etc. etc. Full text and tables can be viewed at

The results that came back were perturbing, with over 50% of the population here in the UK unable to spell 'embarrassed' and over 60% failing to get the word right in the USA.

Men performed consistently worse than women in both the UK and USA.

All respondents were adults who had gone through the education system. We had a cross section of the population answering the survey, and post grad students and College graduates fared no better than their counter parts at vocational colleges.

UK Coverage:

The Times

The Telegraph

Americans embarrassed by poor spelling performance compared to Britons
Americans are worse at spelling than Britons, with more than half unable to spell "embarrassed", "liaison" and "millennium".

By Matthew Moore
Last Updated: 12:01PM GMT 09 Feb 2009
Americans embarrassed by poor spelling performance compared to Britons
Sixty-two per cent of Americans got 'embarrassed' wrong, against 54 per cent of Britons who struggled with the word in a survey last year Photo: GETTY

Despite the popularity of school spelling bee competitions, adults in the US fared poorly in a survey comparing how English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic deal with commonly misspelt words.

Sixty-two per cent of Americans got "embarrassed" wrong, against 54 per cent of Britons who struggled with the word in a survey last year.

Adults in the US performed less well on most of the ten words tested, including millennium (52 per cent wrong, against 43 per cent in UK), liaison (61 per cent to 54 per cent) and "accommodation" (42 per cent to 36 per cent).

Only "definitely" and "friend" were spelt correctly by more Americans.

Professor Edward Baranowski of California State University said that the results reflected the "horrific" drop-out rates of US high schools.

"This certainly puts an eventual strain upon the universities, which must devote lots of resources to remedial education," he said.

Jack Bovill of the Spelling Society, which commissioned the research, said the high inaccuracy rates in both countries showed the need for the English spelling system to be modernised to improve literacy.

"When asked, only a quarter of adults thought they had a problem with spelling. The answers in the test prove that this is far from the case," he said. "What is holding the UK and the USA back is the irregular spelling system."

The Spelling Society wants a cross-party committee of MPs to promote spelling reforms.

The US survey involvING a sample of 1,000 adults was carried out online by Ipsos MORI last month, with the method based on a survey of 1,000 Britons in April last year.

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USA Coverage:

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