I'm a native Spanish speaker. In Spanish, the verb "to accept" is "aceptar". When I write it down, or type it on my phone, I tend to write "haceptar" (the H in Spanish is mute, so it'd be pronounced the same way), even though I know it isn't spelled with an H. This also happens to me with some other specific words I can't remember right now.

I thought this happened only to me, but today I found the same word misspelled the same way on a blog over the internet.

I directly tied this «condition» to the concept of a "lapsus", but I couldn't find anything about it.

I want to find a name for this, and I also want to know if it's some specific words that cause it on everyone or it's just casual coincidence.

PS: It's funny that I [almost] always realise I've misspelled the word just before sending it (if it was in a text message), so I always go back and correct it. But it's a hateful process, mostly when I've written a long text or used "aceptar" multiple times...

Edit: I have come up with an example in English as well. When I try to handwrite or type the word "rhythm", I tend to spell it "rythm" (even knowing it doesn't go that way). In this case the H is also mute (and I'm starting to see a pattern: every mistake I make is with a mute H).

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a duplicate of psychology.stackexchange.com/q/121/7001 - do you concur? Also, please don't cross-post on another forum (or if you do, then be sure to delete this one). $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg I'm not actually sure, since this also happens to me while handwriting... I just think of the word with an H despite knowing it doesn't have one. Maybe it's just a special case. /// I won't cross post since when I saw the one you say this one's duplicate of, I realised this must be the forum to ask on. $\endgroup$
    – Iaka Noe
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ Possibly a duplicate of this one instead? Why do you sometimes write down one word while actually intending to write another? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Fizz Interesting. I just reread all posts and personally I still find it a dupe. The only real difference is "its->it's" is pronounced the same way and "possible->possibly" isn't. The OP argues his question is different because the answers don't answer his question, but that does not make the question any different. I liked the hypothesis brought forward by Mien, which seems very plausible. What answer do you envision on this question that wouldn't answer the one currently marked as dupe or the one we are commenting on now? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ @IakaNoe: my own question on the general relationship between spelling and dual-process theories might also interest you psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/21948/… $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 11:37

1 Answer 1


TLDR: if it's a "graphotactic" mistake that children could make (and it is), adults could make it under time pressure, distraction etc. A technical term for your kind of error is "phonologically plausible error" (PPE)

This is rather speculative, but I suspect that having two different spelling sets/rules for things that sound the same is the main reason. There's an obvious source of confusion there that we must constantly fight. That's another reason why some linguists argue for phonemic writing (roughly one spelling for everything that sounds the same.) Spanish

It may even have something to do with the so-called dual process theories of cognition (intuitions vs "deep thought"). If you have to apply multiple rules, it takes more time to discern which, and under time pressure you're more likely to make such mistakes.

Why would you prefer the more elaborate spelling version instead of the simpler one, I don't know. It has been observed that children tend to do the opposite:

by kindergarten, many children begin to apply their existing phonological knowledge of pronunciation combined with emerging orthographic knowledge to produce invented spellings. Hence, pack might be spelled as pak (Treiman & Bourassa, 2000), which then preserves the minimal phoneme representation, known as the phonological skeleton (Bourassa & Treiman, 2003).

The paper I quoted that from also discusses cluster interaction of vowels and consonants, which are also a source of spelling errors in children. That seems related to what you experience, except all the examples there are shortening/simplifying, e.g. misspelling sand as sad, because the n is hard(er) to hear.

What is also observed in children are more complex errors related to the [mis]application of more complex rules, e.g. press misspelled as ppres:

As beginning spellers learn sound-letter correspondences, particular patterns of orthographic features become evident (Cassar & Treiman, 1997). One such pattern involves consonant doubling, which occurs when children understand that a word contains a doubled consonant but do not recognize its positional constraints. In written English, doubled consonants occur in medial or final positions after a short vowel but cannot occur in the initial position e.g., press. However, young children might mark the doubled consonant in the wrong position, such as ppres (see also Wright & Ehri, 2007), indicating an emerging awareness of the need for a doubled consonant and illustrating that beginning spellers are still mastering word-specific knowledge about positional constraints leading to integration of phonological and orthographic knowledge (Bourassa & Treiman, 2007; Cassar & Treiman, 1997).

Your example seems to be a misapplication of a more complex rule regarding the writing of silent consonants. No such examples are discussed in that paper, as far as I can tell. I'll try to find some more research on this but anecdotal evidence is that silent consonants are a frequent source of spelling errors in English as well.

The closest example in English I found is in a rather obscure thesis:

The first level of misspelling is when a letter in a word is completely omitted or extra added. For example, in the word ‘ransom’ the misspelling is depicted as ‘ransome’ with an extra ‘e’ letter at the end. Silent letters might affect the correct spelling in terms of leaving them out.

This involves a vowel and in the final, not initial position, but it's conceptually the same "overcorrect" process as adding an initial silent consonant.

And I found something similar for French:

Children are sensitive to the fact that many French words include a final silent consonant, which sometimes leads them to add a silent consonant erroneously to words that do not include such letters.

Since this apparently happens a lot in French, it has been more seriously studied, including what type of root words lead to this overapplication more often etc. (See link for details).

  • $\begingroup$ It sounds to me like this is actually the correct answer. Since I know little to nothing about psychology, I'll let others up/down vote to approve it. $\endgroup$
    – Iaka Noe
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 12:51

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