Tutorial Directory

Does Spelling Matter?

imagae of a man with a dictionary

Thanks to search engines like Google, how you spell a keyword may no longer impact your search results. Misspell a keyword and Google will search for the correct spelling. This is definitely an advantage if you need to search for a term you're not sure how to spell. The downside is that not all search engines can do this. If a search engine takes your keyword literally, and you misspell, either you will get all the misspelled matches or no matches at all.

So, depending on the search engine, spelling still counts

  • Try searching for spellinb on Google. Google searches for spellinb and finds matches but asks you if you meant spelling instead.
  • Try the same search using the Library of Congress. This query returns NO results and suggests you might want to look at your spelling.

What a difference one letter makes, depending on the search engine.

You will miss important, relevant information when you misspell a search term in many search engines.

Does case count?

graphic of an ant eater eating an ant

Probably not. Most search engines ignore case. However, some search engines automatically notice capitalization and only search for the unique upper and lower case combinations in your search terms. So be aware of upper and lower case in your search terms so you can see how your search engine of choice handles this topic. Google automatically searches in lowercase, even if you type your search terms using capitals. However, Google will return results that match both upper and lower case instances of your keywords. As a rule of thumb, use lower case, to broaden your search, and capitals to narrow your search.

What about British vs. American spelling?

There are differences in American and British spelling.  You can exploit these differences in spelling to target American or European web resources. Searching with the following British and American spellings will change your results. If you use keywords with British spelling you will usually match European web resources. American spelling usually matches web resources from the United States.

When using this technique, pay particular attention to the domain names of the web pages you retrieve. Many European sites use a two letter designator in their domain name to indicate their country of origin. For example: .uk = United Kingdom; .fr = France; .nl = Netherlands, .ge = Germany.


To diagnose how an unfamiliar search engine works, search for "defence" then "defense" in these search engines:

What does this search tell you about how these search engines work?

How can understanding homonyms empower my search?

When striving to name a concept with great precision, it helps to understand the subtleties of nyms. The root "nym” comes from the Greek word onoma, a name. We use the term nym to identify many classes of words. As keywords, some nyms have an impact on your search results.

Homonyms are words that have the same sound but a different meaning and spelling. Misspelling these common homonyms can create confusion, and side track your search.

acts things done
ax chopping tool
racket illegal moneymaking scheme
racquet woven bat for tennis
right correct
rite ritual
write to inscribe wright a maker

Authored by Dennis O'Connor 2003-2005 | Revised by Carl Heine 2016