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On Mathematics Stack Exchange, there are 30,436 posts containing "occurence" versus 3,287 posts containing "occurrence", although "occurrence" is the right spelling (in English and in French).

I am aware of the post Edit session for wrong spelling of mathematicians and mathematical concepts, but I think a collective edit session in this case would not be the appropriate solution. This impressive 90% proportion of wrong spelling could only be eradicated by a robot. I think such robots exist for Wikipedia. Would it be possible to have such a tool for our favorite site?

Of course, correcting all occurrences of "occurence" would make this post pretty difficult to understand, but I am ready to accept this drawback: after all, this post would become deprecated and could be deleted.

P.S. The robot could also be used to get rid of the 3,942 occurrences of "continous" (but, with 136,397 occurrences of "continuous", the situation is not as bad). One should be a little be more careful with "compliment" (514 results) versus "complement" (21,209 results), just in case of compliments on some posts.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't actually remember coming across an occurrence of "occurence", but God does it feel weird. $\endgroup$ – Arnaud Mortier Nov 19 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ It looks like it is less dangerous, and more productive to ignore it. Potentially, and since English is not hindered by a Language Academy like French and Spanish, it could happen that "occurence" becomes a common spelling and therefore accepted. $\endgroup$ – conditionalMethod Nov 19 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ From your data it looks like "occurence" is the official spelling of the word in this website. I shall adapt accordingly. $\endgroup$ – conditionalMethod Nov 19 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ 200 years later the online history books proclaim: "Thats hau r hero condishonal-method sav interweeb" $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Nov 19 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ @rschwieb You can easily divide by $20$ that time given that the high degree of communication in the world helps with the convergence. $\endgroup$ – conditionalMethod Nov 19 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ "Bae" made it to the Oxford English Dictionary in just 6 years. I wouldn't make a prediction about "occurence" since predictions in social sciences have a tendency of turning wrong, since once made people will try to do the exact opposite. But the numbers above and in Google Trends are not looking so bad. $\endgroup$ – conditionalMethod Nov 19 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ Just kidding, there will be no books or no history then, it’ll just be porn through and through. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Nov 19 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ @conditionalMethod Bad news! See the answer below. It tells you that you of got to adapt again, already. Who'd of thought it? ;) $\endgroup$ – Calum Gilhooley Nov 20 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ @CalumGilhooley Why is that bad news? You are clearly assuming something that is wrong. $\endgroup$ – conditionalMethod Nov 20 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ Here is somewhat related post on Meta Stack Exchange: Can I build a bot for Stack Exchange which fixes spelling and grammar? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 20 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @rschwieb can talk about porn, but I couldn't post a question on the combinatorics of stripping at one point... $\endgroup$ – Roddy MacPhee Nov 20 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ @martin-sleziak Thank you very much for your answer that should be a comment and for your comment that could be an answer. Both are really very interesting and useful. I really appreciate. $\endgroup$ – J.-E. Pin Nov 20 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ @conditionalMethod I thought misspellings were bad because they make posts harder to find. Don't they? $\endgroup$ – bof Nov 24 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @bof Well, since approximate string matching is available, harder will be a function of how distant the misspelling is. But before that, what is a misspelling? Is it a misspelling if it is the most popular way of writing, as the initial data was suggesting? $\endgroup$ – conditionalMethod Nov 24 at 11:40
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This is probably closer to a comment, but it would be too long.

I suppose that you got the number above 30000 by searching for occurence on the main site. This is an overestimate - I do not know the exact details of how the search engine of Stack Exchange works, but apparently it tries to include words which are close to the one you're searching. You can notice that if you search for occurence among your posts, you get several results which do not actually contain the word occurence. (But they do contain words such as occur, occurs, etc.) This can also be spotted in the search results without additional restriction, if you sort them not by relevance but by some other criterion - such as newest, recently active, etc. - or if you keep the sorting by relevance but look at some of the last pages among the search results.

I would take results from SEDE as a more reliable count, which gives 540 results for occurence. SEDE returns about 3200 results for occurrence. (Still, even if we take these numbers as reliable, the percentage of misspellings is rather high. But we get much smaller percentage and also much smaller number of posts than suggested in the question.) If we check also the comments, SEDE returns 279 comments when searching for occurence.

Another option might be to use search for "occurence" (with the quotation marks), this should search for an exact phrase according to help. This gives only 334 results - I am not sure what is the reason for the difference between this and the results from SEDE. Very likely the results from SEDE include also the posts containing the word "occurences", but this still does not seem as a satisfactory explanation of the difference.

For the words continous, the results from search without and with quotation marks and from SEDE are much closer to each other. (Probably in that case it is much less likely that the search engine finds another word which is close to this.)

Using SEDE we can also find posts which contained some word but it was removed by editing. I found 52 posts for occurence and 967 posts for continous.


Having said that, I certainly appreciate all efforts to improve posts by editing them, be it grammar, spelling, tags, MathJax, or any other aspects. Of course, one should avoid bumping too many old posts at the same time.

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    $\begingroup$ That's reassuring! It would have been a bit embarrassing would we collectively only manage to get it right once out of ten times. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 19 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ @quid half the people here can't be bothered to fully understand a post before commenting. Now that's embarrassing! $\endgroup$ – Roddy MacPhee Nov 20 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ 86.3 percent of the people here can't be bothered to collect any evidence before making numerical assertions, Roddy. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 20 at 12:06
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    $\begingroup$ I'd really like to do a search for occurrences of it's that should be its, but I wouldn't know how. And a search for matrice, and vertice. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 20 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson The last are relatively easy, "matrice" gives me 245 results (over 53k for "matrices", so that looks good), and "vertice" 285. Not too frightening. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Nov 20 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ To add to @DanielFischer's comment - using SEDE I found 214 posts with matfice and 280 posts with vertice. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 20 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ I can bother to, but it has to interest me a lot ( like becoming what I talk to myself about) before I do that. $\endgroup$ – Roddy MacPhee Nov 20 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ A search for "axe" could have false positives if there are any word problems about chopping tools. Perhaps "coordinate axe", "x-axe", and "y-axe"? $\endgroup$ – Toby Bartels Nov 20 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ And don’t get me started on “teh”. Also, I wonder how many occurrences [sic] of “occurence” are in comments, which as far as I know can’t be edited, rather than questions or answers? $\endgroup$ – MPW Nov 21 at 8:11
  • $\begingroup$ @MPW As I have mentioned in the answer, based on this SEDE query it seems that there are 279 comments with occurence. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 21 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ I routinely fix spelling errors in the titles of questions that appear on the main page. I don't look further because I don't want to bump old posts and I don't take the time to fix errors (often the same error) in the body. I just don't like seeing the typos up front. $\endgroup$ – Ethan Bolker Nov 21 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ @EthanBolker If it's all right to do that, I'll probably make a habit of doing it, too. I was put off by this: "Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged - try to make the post significantly better when you edit, correcting all problems that you observe." $\endgroup$ – Calum Gilhooley Nov 22 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ @CalumGilhooley I know about the policy on tiny trivial edits. That's why I do only titles, and only questions that won't be bumped to the home page. $\endgroup$ – Ethan Bolker Nov 22 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ Your SEDE query includes occurrences (pun intended) of the word occurences, while the site search does not. It does not search in titles, which the site search does. That might account for some of the differences that occur :) $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Nov 22 at 21:08

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