Anyone can look words up in a dictionary, and of course Webster 1913 is a great tool, but there is a new option that lets one use logic while figuring out how to spell words.

This works best where one has the options narrowed down pretty solidly to a few candidates.
Go to your favorite search engine (I prefer google) and enter each candidate into the search box on successive searches.  Don't bother looking at the links returned, just note how many items there are for each candidate. One of them, the correct one, will have a number of results at least an order of magnitude greater than the others.  That's the correct spelling.

For example, a search today, February 17, 2001, using Google returned:
VARIATION       RESULTS
corolary            239
corrolary         1,590
corollary       206,000
corrollary          984

Clearly corollary is the correct spelling.

This is a very quick method, especially given a fast connection, and one doesn't get bogged down reading definitions.  There is the temptation to scan the contents of websites containing the worst misspellings to deal with though...

 


July 2007:

 

To make things even easier, Google now offers suggestions when it seems one might have misspelled a word, i.e. "Did you mean _________?"

Combine this with a browser that has a text-box up by the address bar that's linked to a search engine and you truly have one stop shopping.

 

Of course, since you're obviously online to do this, you could just go to a site like Merriam-Webster Online (http://www.m-w.com/) and look up your word in the dictionary, if you don't have one on the shelf.

But it's always interesting to see a tool used outside of it's intended purpose.

It's actually more linguistically correct to use actual usage as the measure of correctness in language related issues, so this idea makes perfect sense to scientists.

I also use it to decide grammatical issues, but since they usually involve multiword constructs it's generally much harder to find adequate queries and once you have posed a query, to sift out the relevant results. But I highly recommend it - it often clears up some widespread misconceptions on how language is used in the wild.

This is a cool idea and one I've personally used for some time. Google is groovy, but for this trick, Altavista is much better:
Altavista allows you to enter more than one search term at a time and at the bottom of the page, returns the number of hits for each one. With Google, you have to look up each spelling seperately and note down the numbers. Example:

The number of words that match your search terms:
corolary 143 • corrollary 528 • corrolary 740 • corollary 78375

Merriam-Webster is fine if you're only interested in American spelling of English words.
Word processors are great if you have the money and they support your chosen languages.
Search engines allow you to look up neologisms, trademarked words, phrases, foreign words, quotes, and names of famous people. (Sadly, hyphenation can't be checked yet)...

The number of words that match your search terms:
jack lemon 935 • jack lemmon 32821

The number of words that match your search terms:
seig hiel 14 • sieg hiel 41 • seig heil 674 • sieg heil 8665

The number of words that match your search terms:
nürnburg 709 • nuremburg 19721 • nuremberg 259484 • nürnberg 1245022

The number of words that match your search terms:
kabballah 994 • qaballah 1333 • caballa 4512 • qabala 5673 •
qaballa 15694 • kabala 17434 • qabalah 19718 • kaballah 20226 •
kabbala 31476 • cabala 32975 • kabbalah 92863 • kabalah 209304
In my experience, when I Google search for corolary, it asks me the following:

Searched the web for corolary . 
Did you mean: corollary
The word corollary links to a search for said word. In those search results, google returns:
Searched the web for corollary .
-- and the word corollary itself is a link to the Merriam-Webster dictionary entry for that word. Thus, I don't have to search for multiple spellings to find out which is the correct one, I only need do one search. Google speaks typo.

A bit convoluted to explain, but do it yourself, you'll see what i mean.

Search engines are nice, but if you're off-line (or in need of real spell-checking) you can always start up your favorite word processor (such as Microsoft Word), and type whatever word it is you want checked. If it's a decent piece of software, it'll have a built-in spell checker.

Of course, it won't show you any of the wrong ways to spell the word (like Altavista or Google will) but it (in this case, Word) will do grammar checking as well, plus Japanese consistency checking, which comes in handy at times (for me anyway).

Also, it (the spell checker) will distinguish between different languages, as well as US English and UK English, unlike the search engine, which will consider either spelling correct. Not all people bother with trying to avoid mixing US and UK English, though.

It should be noted that while Word (the word processor I used in the example above) is according to some people a piece of bloatware, starting it up is actually faster on my system than opening Internet Explorer and clicking the link to Google, and then waiting a split second for Google to load.

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