“I Defiantly Agree!”

As often as students commit the typical errors of writing—the fragments, the missing punctuation, the misspellings—there is one very specific mistake that I see dozens of times every year that nobody else seems to have mentioned: it’s using the word “defiantly” in the wrong place.

Over the years, I’ve had endless students write down and turn in papers with sentences like these:

“I defiantly think that I will go to college.”

“I would defiantly not ever want to read something like this again.”

“Will I read another book like this one? Defiantly!”

The last example makes it sound as if not only will this young person be reading more books in the future, but will be doing so with a stoic, stubborn rebelliousness, directly in the face of antagonistic opposition. “You dare to chain me down and hold back my reading habits? I will rise up and overthrow your anti-literate regime!” You go, girl!

Obviously, what these students meant to write is “definitely.” But how did the one word become the other? And how the heck are dozens—hundreds—of kids making the same weird mistake?

I mean, it’s not like this is a simple typo; no single slip of a finger could do this. The words differ in multiple places, and the pronunciations are hardly similar at all.

My theory is that there must be some common misspelling of “definitely” that Microsoft Word changes to “defiantly.” I tried typing all the incorrect versions of “definitely” that I could think of, but Microsoft didn’t want me to turn any of them into “defiantly,” so maybe I’m wrong.

For their part, most of the students don’t seem to understand the mistake, much less are they able to explain it, but it sure makes for some funny reading for me!

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