Learn strategies for becoming a better speller, memory aids for spelling, words to watch out for, and more!


With all of its quirks and exceptions to the rules, the ever-evolving English language can be a hard one to master when it comes to spelling. In fact, the way words in American English are spelled has only become standardized in the last couple centuries – thanks in large part to the development of the printing press. While spellcheck programs are a great invention, spelling remains an important skill. Whether you’re in school or in the workforce, spelling matters. Fair or not, people will judge you based on misspelled words in your writing. That can hurt your grades or stunt your career development. And it just may cost you thousands of dollars on a TV game show. We have rounded up plenty of great resources to help you improve your spelling. This guide is packed with spelling tips, words to watch out for, spelling bee resources, and more.

Strategies for Becoming a Better Speller

These tips to improve your spelling are based on expert advice. Check out the basics below. And if you want even more helpful tips, click on the provided links.

Learn with your eyes

There are plenty of spelling rules (and exceptions to those rules), and it’s good to be familiar with them. But memorizing spelling conventions may not be the best way to become a better speller. Instead, expose your brain to an image of a word several times. This can involve using flashcards to master specific words or just reading a lot – books, newspapers, signs, even menus and billboards – to subconsciously memorize how words are spelled.

Target your problem words

Whether it’s bureau, conscientious, or restaurant, most people have at least a few problem words that they just can’t seem to spell correctly. Quickly master your problem words by first listing them and then practicing them until you’re able to spell them correctly without hesitation. If you do most of your writing on a word processing program, copy and paste your problem words into a separate document and use that as your list.

Spell it out loud

Some experts recommend a multisensory approach for improving spelling skills. In addition to practicing word spellings by writing them down, pretend you’re at a spelling bee and spell words out loud to help make the correct spellings stick.

Create word groups

Forming associations between words based on spelling similarities is a key strategy for memorizing word spellings. For instance, make a group of words that end in mn, such as hymn and column. Another example is grouping words that have the suffix arian, such as librarian and veterinarian.

Check out these additional resources
that are packed with great tips to help you improve your spelling:

Memory Aids for Spelling

Mnemonics are memory aids, usually in the form of a saying or verse. They can help you remember all kinds of things, from the color sequence in a rainbow (Roy G. Biv) to how many Es there are in cemetery (the ghost said E,E,E). You likely were taught at some point that the principal is your pal to show the difference in spelling between principal and principle. When creating mnemonic devices for spelling, pretty much anything goes – as long as it helps you remember the correct spelling of a word. Follow the links below to discover many more spelling mnemonics.

Words to Watch Out For

Most adult native English speakers have a vocabulary of thousands of words – 20,000 to 35,000, according to one study– and among those there are dozens, if not hundreds, that are commonly misspelled (including the word misspell). There are many reasons some words are so often misspelled: Sometimes we apply a common spelling rule, such as I before E except after C, to a word that proves to be an exception (weird, for example). Other times we add letters (such as an extra L in column) or omit letters (like as the second T in letter). And then there are words (such as colonel) that don’t sound anything like they’re spelled. Here are 10 of the most commonly misspelled words:

  • Accommodate
  • Believe
  • Commitment
  • Embarrass
  • Harass
  • License
  • Necessary
  • Occasion
  • Proceed
  • Separate

And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the links below for many more commonly misspelled words and how to avoid misspelling them.

100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English

This extensive list of problematic words includes tips for remembering how to spell them correctly.

Commonly Misspelled English Words

Comprising more than 500 words, this comprehensive collection includes links to each word’s definition and pronunciation key.

Can You Spell the Most Commonly Misspelled Words?

Test your spelling skills with this interactive quiz on oft-misspelled words.

More Spelling Resources

Your One-Stop Complete Homophone List

English is full of words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Check out this comprehensive collection of homophones.

Oxford Dictionaries: Spelling Rules and Tips

While there are plenty of English words that you’re better off just memorizing, having a firm grasp of these spelling rules will help you become an all-around better speller.

Why English Has Words with Silent Letters

With more than 200 ways to spell 44 sounds, English spelling can be tricky to master. Silent letters serve only to complicate things. Here’s a great article on why so many English words have silent letters.

Word Roots and Prefixes: Quick Reference

From A to Z, this list is full of English word roots and prefixes, along with meanings, languages of origin, examples, and definitions.

English Suffixes

This complete list of suffixes will help you better understand how words are constructed and spelled.

Spelling Trivia

Rhythms is the only word in the English language that is not spelled with normal vowels (A, E, I, O, U).

The vowel E is the most commonly used letter in the alphabet.

Hazardous, horrendous, stupendous, and tremendous are the only common English words that have the suffix dous. The specialized zoological term apodous (meaning without feet) also takes the suffix.

Screeched is among the longest commonly used single-syllable English words. Here are the others (including the 10-letter scraunched).

Soupspoons is the longest English word comprising letters entirely from the second half of the alphabet.

Bookkeeper and bookkeeping are the only non-hyphenated words that have three consecutive double letters.

Aegilops (a plant in the grass family) is the longest word in which the letters are arranged in alphabetical order.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis, a 45-letter medical term, is considered to be the longest English word. But Oxford Dictionary notes that it is an “invented long word.” The classic contender for longest word is antidisestablishmentarianism.

The letter sequence ough can be pronounced at least six different ways in American English: bough, cough, rough, though, thought, and through.

Therein contains 13 letters spelled using consecutive letters: the, he, her, er, here, I, there, ere, rein, re, in, therein, and herein.

Want more spelling trivia?

Check out: 25 English Language Oddities

Spelling Bee Resources

Spelling bees have been a popular form of entertainment in the United States for well over a century. In the 1870s newspapers widely covered what was being called “spelling fever.” And they aren’t just for kids – in addition to the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, there are adult spelling competitions held each year. Want to put your spelling skills to the test? Take a look at the resources below for study tips and help locating spelling bees.

Spelling Bee Prep

How to Study for a Spelling Bee

This guide is full of helpful spelling study tips from Scripps National Spelling Bee finals announcer Jacques Bailly.

Spell It!

The Official National Spelling Bee study site, Spell It! focuses on some 1,150 words grouped based on language of origin and includes a list of frequently misspelled words, misused homonyms, and commonly confused words.

Take the Spelling Bee Test

Before they can make it to the nationals, spelling bee candidates have to pass this preliminary test. Take the test and see if you could have qualified for the semifinals.

Winning Words

Are you a great speller? Check out this list of Scripps National Spelling Bee-winning words from throughout the decades to see if you have what it takes to be a spelling champion.

  • Albumen (1928)
  • Foulard (1931)
  • Semaphore (1946)
  • Soubrette (1953)
  • Eudaemonic (1960)
  • Narcolepsy (1976)
  • Elucubrate (1980)
  • Vivisepulture (1996)
  • Pococurante (2003)
  • Cymotrichous (2011)

Find a Spelling Bee

Scripps National Spelling Bee

This long-running spelling bee is open to students up to eighth grade. To qualify for the national bee, students need to have won local and regional spelling bees. Check out the full rules here, and locate your local competitions here.

National Kids Spelling Bee

Students in grades three to five compete in this spelling bee held each year in Long Beach, California. The winner takes home $1,000. See the rules here.

National Adult Spelling Bee

The adult version of the National Kids Spelling Bee, this competition is open to US residents 16 years old and older. The grand prize is $1,000, of which $500 goes into the winner’s pocket and $500 goes to a nonprofit, school, or religious organization of the winner’s choice. Check out the rules here.

National Senior Spelling

In this annual competition, spelling enthusiasts age 50 and older face off in Knoxville, Tennessee, for fun and the chance to take home monetary prizes. Check out the rules here.

Spelling Terms Defined

Compound Word – Two words joined together to form new word, as in cannot, moonlight, and somewhat.

Consonant – A speech sound that is not a vowel, including the letters: B C D F G H J K L M N P Q R S T V W X Y Z.

Consonant Blend – Two or three consonants are blended together, as in snake, street, and warm.

Consonant Digraph/Trigraph – Two or three consonants joined together to make a different sound, as in blue, drive, and screen.

Contraction – A word formed by shortening and joining two other words, as in don’t (do not), they’re (they are), and won’t (will not).

Homophone – A word that sounds like another word but has a different meaning and spelling, such as break/brake, complement/compliment, and whether/weather.

Orthography – The set of conventions for how to write a language, including how to spell words.

Prefix – Letters added to the beginning of a word to affect its meaning, as in antifreeze, disagree, and submarine.

Root – The most basic part of a word combined with prefixes and suffixes to create other words, such as conformity, apologize, and important.

Suffix – Letters added to the end of a word to affect its meaning, as in dangerous, happily, and psychopath.

Syllable – The number of beats in a word, such as ap-ple, bi-cy-cle, and li-ter-a-ture.

Vowel – The letters A E I O U.