Lately, I've had a discussion with a friend. I said that spelling mistakes is the same thing as spelling errors. He doesn't agree with me. So, what's the difference? Are both correct?

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    Er, a spelling error is when there's a mistake in the spelling, while a spelling mistake is when there's an error in the spelling. Wait, no, that might not be it. Maybe this is it: a spelling error is when there's an error in the spelling, while a spelling mistake is when there's a mistake in the spelling. Hmm, maybe not that, but perhaps this: When a person erroneously makes a mistake (or is it "error"?) in the spelling, then that's a spelling mistake (or is it a spelling error?). Or: When a person mistakenly errors in the spelling . . . Argh! Now you got me all confused! – F.E. Aug 28 '14 at 19:34

In normal use, the two phrases mean the same thing.

In a specific context a speaker or writer may say that when he says "error" he means something slightly different than when he says "mistake". But that's true of pretty much any word.


I agree with your friend - a spelling error is where you regularly spell a word wrongly a spelling mistake is where you spell a word wrongly and don't notice.

Spelling error : every time your write friend you write freind and think it's correct.

Spelling mistake : you write wierd just once and don't notice, but you normally write weird.

Spelling mistakes are easy to make but not always easy to notice, spelling errors are unnoticeable (by you) and mean you need to learn how to spell the word correctly.

Post comment additional information

I found this which seems to confirm my position.

Wikipedia contributors. "Error (linguistics)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.

In linguistics, it is considered important to distinguish errors from mistakes. Distinction is always made between errors and mistakes where the former is seen as resulting from learner's lack of proper grammatical knowledge and the latter as being failed to utilize a known system correctly. ...

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    There's an error - sorry, a mistake - in your last sentence. ... Have you any authority (other than OP's friend!) for this distinction? I have never encountered it. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 28 '14 at 22:15
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    @StoneyB Only from the very slight variations in the definitions of error and mistake. It's hard to describe either without using the other but mistake is nearer to a genuine accident that happens rarely, while an error is due to something being wrong and happens every time that situation is met. If you learned the word 'frigid' from one single source where it was spelled 'fridgid', the original may be a mistake, the author accidentally slipped in a 'd' but now you hold the belief that 'frigid' is spelled 'fridgid', you have an error in your belief of the spelling of 'frigid'. – Frank Aug 29 '14 at 4:42
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    +1 for the Wiki reference. I never thought of that! However, I'm confused if a third person is reading a content, what does he find? Spelling error or mistake! Mind it, 'a third person' and not the one who wrote the content! :) – Maulik V Aug 29 '14 at 5:49
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    @MaulikV The same word would need to appear a few times for a third party to determine if the writer has made an error writing the wurd or made a mistake writing the word. (I'd class my 'wurd' as a mistake - It's more likely that I know the spelling is 'word' but just hit the wrong key than I believe the correct spelling is 'wurd' but hit the wrong key twice to get what happens to be the correct spelling; 'word'). – Frank Aug 29 '14 at 6:01
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    Unfortunately, I find it doubtful that the two parties in disagreement in the OP's post would be linguists. Consider, what is the difference between subject and topic? In the field of grammar, those terms have different meanings. But when used in a conversation such as: A:"What is the subject we're arguing about?" B:"No, you should've asked 'what is the TOPIC that we're arguing about'!" And of course, the meanings of the two terms "subject" and "topic" will be quite different from what grammarians and linguists would use. And the same goes for "errors" vs "mistakes" in the OP's post. – F.E. Aug 29 '14 at 6:42

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