Language Tips

Spelling tip of the week – appalling

Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of spelling tips we will be looking at some of the most commonly misspelled words in English and suggesting ways to improve your spelling.

People looking for the adjective appalling in Macmillan Dictionary sometimes spell it *appaling by mistake. This is presumably because they are thinking of the root verb, appal, which has a single ‘l in British English.

Appal, which probably comes from a French verb meaning ‘to grow pale’, was spelled with a double ‘l’ (as well as in various other ways) for many centuries. The single ‘l’ only became established in the 18th century in British English, and never in American or Canadian English where the standard spelling remains appall.

Of course, even in British English the spelling with a single ‘l’ occurs only in the base form and third person singular; the other forms appalled and appalling have ‘ll’. This is a case where universally adopting the US (and original) spelling of the base form would be a good idea, because then people would be less likely to misspell the inflected and derived forms.

You can find some information on why English spelling is so difficult, as well as helpful tips on mastering it here. You can search for other posts in this series using the tag ‘spelling tips’.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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