Around a third of people in Britain are unable to accurately spell words such as “definitely”, “separate” and “necessary”, it was revealed.
The study found that just a fifth of over-18s could properly pick out a series of potentially tricky words from a list. Teenagers and those in their early 20s were the worst spellers, it emerged.
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, the charity for people with learning disabilities, which commissioned the research, said that poor spelling risked hampering school leavers’ job prospects.
"With over two-thirds of Britons now having to rely on spell check, we are heading towards an auto-correct generation,” he said.
"Today's tough economic climate means that poor spelling on a CV is fatal, as it says that an individual cannot produce work to a given standard, no matter how highly qualified they might be. Language used by a company or person is a reflection of their attitude, capabilities and skill."
The survey – commissioned to mark Mencap’s Spellathon Championships, which take place this week – presented adults across Britain with a list of common words
It found that just 69 per cent picked out the correct spelling of “definitely”, with more than a quarter substituting the second “i” for an “a”. A similar proportion struggled with “separate”, with the most common wrong spelling being “seperate”.
Around two-thirds picked a wrong spelling for "necessary" from a list that did not include the correct spelling.
While many adults struggled to spell these common words, the poll also found that three-quarters of those questioned believed they were good at spelling.
Females aged over 65 were officially the best spellers, while men aged 18 to 24 were the worst, the study found.
The conclusions come amid growing concerns over standards of literacy in