Spelt vs. Spelled: Duking it out in the Dictionary

Not my mountain

There are other mountains to die on. Choose your grammar battles with care.

I recently got into an argument over the use of the word ‘spelt’ and a colleague insisted, quite heatedly, that there was no such word. In turn, I insisted, gently albeit pointedly (it was one of my ‘up-aboves’), that we look up the word in a dictionary. She was emphatic that ‘spelt’ was incorrect, and paraphrased one of our chronic letter writers who had at some point chewed my colleague out for misspelling ‘spelled.’

– I should note here that the letter writer had self-imposed themselves to be a bastion of proper grammar and syntax relative to my line of work, and almost exclusively wrote in acronyms. Taking any grammatical advice from them, even via a third-party, was tenuous at best. –

Dutifully, I looked up ‘spelt‘ on Dictionary.com, my favourite reference site. Aside from being an ancient wheat variety, ‘spelt’ is a variant of ‘spelled.’ I looked at my colleague triumphantly…in a humble way of course, no use lording it over her. She shook her head. “No, it’s not right.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the dictionary was accused of being incorrect. Now I am the first person who will admit that there is no perfection in life save for Buddha and Jesus; however, the dictionary is a running second to those two deities.

Higher pay scales than mine dictated the moment, and ‘spelt’ was promptly swapped out for ‘spelled.’

The lesson in all this, aside from restraining one’s self from saying, “I told you so,” was that there is no such thing as infallibility when it comes to definitions, and it is always best to check, just in case you have been using a word, or spelling a word, incorrectly all these years.

…which I hadn’t been, just for the record.



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