We have a problem. It’s not new, but I have seen it more frequently of late. And it’s time for an intervention.
No one knows how to spell “marshal.”
Seriously, people. Let’s break it down.
Marshal – with one L
As a verb, “to marshal” is to arrange or organize a group. As a noun, it refers to people who perform that role, such as a fire marshal, a parade’s grand marshal, an army’s field marshal or provost marshal, or even the U.S. Marshals. In none of these cases is there more than one L.
So when you want to write “marshal”, think of the world’s most legendary fire marshal:
Marshall – with two L’s
This is a name of a human. Various humans have enjoyed the name, such as Chief Justice John Marshall, NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, and entrepreneur and retail titan Marshall Field. What do they have in common? They are all humans, they are all named Marshall, and the letter L is used twice in each case. Some things are named after humans and share the name Marshall, including this West Virginia university which goes to the trouble of spelling out its name for you in its logo:
Martial – a very different spelling
The word “martial” is an adjective referring to military or warlike things, such as the martial arts. It is generally used properly and I only include it here to round things out and make clear there are three versions of this homonym. Just remember to use the right one! Don’t whine about it like this girl:
Wait, somebody’s at the door.
[Door creaks open]