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  • Writer's pictureCatie Phares

The top 10 typos in business research—that spell check won’t catch

Let’s be clear: not everything you write will require bringing in an experienced editor. Indeed, from a budgetary perspective, I always recommend clients save our editing services for those truly career-impacting documents, such as submissions to top-tier journals, public-facing articles, tenure and promotion packages, cover letters, and funding applications.


But if you’re ever self-editing anything, I would strongly recommend running a Command/Ctrl+F search for these 10 words (and their 10 alternatives) before submitting it. These common typos are extra sneaky because your spell check (or other NLP) probably won’t catch them! They’re all legitimate words—they’re just very easy to misuse.





1. Casual

You may mean CAUSAL.

“Casual” may indeed be the right usage (e.g., “the increase of casual attire in the workplace”) but I find it’s more often a typo. “Causal” is the far more frequently used word across business research—as in a causal relationship, causal effect, causal factor, etc.

2. “Meditat

You may mean “MEDIAT” (as in mediation, mediated, and mediators, not meditation, meditated, and meditators).


Doing a search for the root “meditat” will catch any form of those inadvertent references to cultivating inner peace.

3. Tenant

You may mean TENET.


Unless your research is about rent and housing concerns, “tenant” is unlikely to be the intended choice. Rather, the very similar sounding “tenet” (meaning a principle or belief) is probably the one you want.

4. Compliment

You may mean COMPLEMENT.


The prevalence of homophones (words that sound the same but have different spellings and/or meanings) in English is just one of the reasons why even professional editors have editors! If you’re someone who primarily “hears” the words in your mind when you read or type, you’re especially prone to falling into homophone-related typos.


In this vein, “compliment” means an expression of praise or admiration. “Complimentary” is the adjective of that word (“She was very complimentary about my writing!”) and can also mean free of charge (“I had a complimentary breakfast in the hotel”). But it’s unlikely that either of those are what you’re looking for in your academic writing. Instead, you probably need “complement” (to improve, complete, or suitably accompany) or its adjective form, “complementary.”

5. Pubic

You may mean PUBLIC.


Unless there’s a medical/anatomical topic involved, this can be a particularly embarrassing slip-up! (Don’t worry though, I guarantee whoever’s reading has always seen far worse.)

6. Weary.

You may mean WARY.


The right choice is almost certainly “wary,” as in cautious or watchful (e.g., “Management was wary of investing even more time into the unproven idea.”). But if you’ve ever used “weary” (i.e., exhausted) in its place, you’re in good company! This is an incredibly common slip across all types of writing.


In short, let’s remain wary of “weary”!

7. Affect.

You may mean EFFECT.


This is a notoriously tricky pair of words because they’re so similar and both can be nouns AND verbs. That said, most of the time, “effect” is probably the intended word in your business research, especially as “to impact” has steadily replaced the function that “to affect” used to have in this domain. For easy reference (most common usage is in bold text):


Affect

Noun: A disposition, mood, or feeling; almost never seen with “an” before it in business research and primarily seen in research specifically on emotions/affect (e.g., “Leaders’ positive affect effected team members’ motivation”).


Verb: To impact or influence (“The cuts affected employee morale”); can also mean to intentionally change one’s mannerisms (“She affected a polite attitude.”) but this meaning would be very rare in business research.


Effect

Noun: An impact, outcome, or consequence.


Verb: To cause, bring about, or accomplish (“The right strategies can effect real change”).


8. Principal

You may mean PRINCIPLE.


Or not! Like effect/affect, both of these options are used regularly throughout academic business writing. Let’s clarify when to use each so you can decide with confidence (again, most common usage is in bold):


Principal

Noun: The head of a school or company (rarely used for company management though).


Adjective: The main, first, or most important.


Principle

Noun: A standard, guideline, law, rule, or general fact (“They agreed in principle, but the details remained to be decided”).


Adjective: Cannot be used as an adjective.


9. Stimulate

You may mean SIMULATE.


This is another one that could appear in this list the other way around too—it’s hard to say which is more common across business research, as they’re used pretty much equally and often blurred (e.g., your research may simulate (as in replicate or imitate) a workplace environment in a study, or it may stimulate (as in inspire or generate) further research on the same topic). To ensure you’ve used these as intended, it’s probably best to do a search for both.

10. A lot

You may mean ALLOT


But unless you mean “assign or distribute” (i.e., “It will allot a portion of the funds to this department), “a lot” is best replaced with something else altogether. Words like “frequently” or “often” (instead of, e.g., “Management visited the site a lot”) or “several,” “many,” “myriad,” “numerous,” etc. (instead of, e.g., “There were a lot of options”) all fit the tone of academic writing better than “a lot.”


I hope this list helps you root out potential mistakes in your writing—happy hunting!


-Catie Phares


p.s. If this list instead has you thinking along the lines of “UGH these all look painfully familiar, and frankly, Catie, I don’t want to worry about any of them!” then please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. Eradicating errors is just one small part of our premium editing for business academics, and we’d be delighted to help with your next project.


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