There are occasions when you are sure you know how to spell a word, then you encounter a different spelling in print and you can’t decide whether the writer is in error or whether you have been getting it wrong all along. That is when it is time to reach for the dictionary.
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This happened to me last week when reading a book review that included this sentence:
She rivals that master of Victorian prolificacy, Anthony Trollope.
I was sure that the correct word was profligacy, but then I began to doubt myself. This was from the Washington Post, after all. Had I been wrong all along? Or was there a different spelling in use in the US, something which happens quite often?
Once I checked my trusty Macquarie, however, I was reassured. Profligacy is indeed the correct and only spelling. Proflicacy isn’t an alternative; it’s a typo.
The lesson here? If you’re not sure, check — and use an authoritative dictionary, not just a random Google search. Accuracy matters.
Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.