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.
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:
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.
This extensive list of problematic words includes tips for remembering how to spell them correctly.
Comprising more than 500 words, this comprehensive collection includes links to each word’s definition and pronunciation key.
Test your spelling skills with this interactive quiz on oft-misspelled words.
More Spelling Resources
English is full of words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Check out this comprehensive collection of homophones.
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.
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.
From A to Z, this list is full of English word roots and prefixes, along with meanings, languages of origin, examples, and definitions.
This complete list of suffixes will help you better understand how words are constructed and spelled.
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
Find a Spelling Bee
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.