Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Just as a quick test, see if you can tell which of the following words are mispelled.
supercede - conceed - procede - idiosyncracy - concensus - accomodate - impressario - rhythym - opthalmologist - diptheria - anamoly - afficianado - caesarian - grafitti
In fact, they all are. So was misspelled at the end of the preceeding paragraph. So was preceding just there. I am sorry. I´ll stop. But I trust you get the point that English can be a maddeningly difficult language to spell correctly.
From Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
Do you sometimes have trouble spelling in English? Do you use any strategies to help you spell better? Share your thoughts and tips with us.


  1. I can assure everyone, even as a native English speaker, that spelling in English is difficult at times. My only suggestion would be to read more. I find that reading more has not only helped improve my vocabulary but also my spelling. This is why as a non-native Portuguese speaker, I am trying to read more to learn more vocabulary. Reading has also helped to remind me where I must place accents. Even though there are rules for accents, this is still difficult. Thus, both in English and Portuguese, reading is of the utmost importance.

  2. Spelling can drive one up the walls. If am in doubt about how to spell a word, I write it down many times and somehow after having seen it spelled in many different ways, I´ll figure out which one is right. It usually works. But, for sure, reading is of the utmost importance because you need to have been exposed to the word to be able to do that.

  3. @Jacqueline

    Dear girls,
    I entirely agree: reading is key. As I hardly ever read in Portuguese these days, my spelling in my mother tongue has gone to the dogs, if you know what I mean. Shame on me...
    When I have trouble spelling a word in English, I copy it many, many times till I memorize the correct spelling. It works every time.

  4. Reading more and more is crucial to improve our spelling. I also believe that it is quite helpful to rewrite tricky-spelled new words we might come across as many times as possible. Otherwise how can we cope with "letter puzzles" such as jewellery, jewelry, committee, hyacinth, rhythm and many others ?

  5. You´re right, Nelson. Writing a word down many times does help a lot. Tell me about the "letter puzzles"...

  6. And some words have a difference in spelling if it is American English or British English

  7. Most of us retains words as ´symbols´, as images. So, when you come across with something like the following:

    Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

    When a word is mispelled, you can ´feel in your guts´ that something is wrong, and most of the time, automatically correct the word and understand the meaning.

    Where you able to read the text ?

    There is controversy on the subject: some researches say that humans are just good with simple anagrams. It´s your call now...


  8. I totally agree. Spelling can be quite a nuisance. I use the same method as Danuza does. I write down the word many times and see which one seems more natural. It works most of the time, but when it comes to words such as "Rhythm", you can never be too careful.
    And there's, also, the British and American English spelling, which, I don't know about you guys, but it drives me crazy! I was shocked to learn that "Drafty"(US) is the same as "Draughty"(UK).
    I guess that only with experience and dedication we can learn how to spell correctly such intriguing words.

  9. @Helio

    Hi Helio,
    How about those easy, simple words that we "chronically" misspell, such as "wich" instead of "which"? Surely, it doesn't affect communication, but examiners are still quite strict about such mistakes.

  10. @Amanda
    Hi Amanda

    Have you noticed that when a word has two spellings (one British and one American) the British version is always the trickier one?
    I wonder why that happens. Any ideas?

  11. Hi Chris:

    I see your point. My remark was related with the process of knowing if a word is mispelled or not. If the word is "carved" in your brain, you'll notice the mistake. But if it's not and you just try to mimmic pronunciation with letters, you could fail. There's no absolute rules. You know how tricky pronunciation and spelling are.


  12. Chris,
    What about using American spelling in Cambridge exams?

  13. Well, everytime that I don't know the spelling of a word I look it up in the dictionary. In addition, when I take a written test, I always check if I made any spelling mistake and, if I did, I take note of it, first, the way I wrote it, then, the correct way. :)

    p.s. If I made any mistake now, related to spelling or not,heheheh..., please, correct me. Thanks!

  14. Oh! And, Chris, there's a little sth that I can't forget to mention: the blog rocks and I love you!
    hahauhauahau Sorry, but I couldn't help it :P

  15. @Pri

    Hi Pri,
    I love you too. A lot! And you're right: our blog does rock!

    Ha! Ha! Ha!

    Chris Dupont

  16. @ Helio

    Hi Helio,

    You´re right about a word being "carved" in your brain or not. When it isn't, my experience says: copy the word again and again and again. It does the trick!

    Keep blogging,


  17. @Simone

    Hi Simone,

    American spelling in Cambridge exams is just fine, so long as you´re consistent: American spelling only.



  18. Well, well, spelling really gets on my nerves! Sometimes in a listening activity for instance ,we can catch the correct word but we spell it wrong so then we lose the mark. OMG! It also happens in the word formation exercise. I feel really sorry when things like that happen.
    Because of that I try to rewrite the word again many times so that I can memorize the correct form.

    19/5/09 7:03 PM

  19. @Larissa

    Hi honey,

    I find it unfair that Cambridge should penalize inaccurate spelling in the listening paper.
    Unfortunately, however, examiners seem to be very strict about correct spelling, so candidates : "Keep your eyes wide open!"

  20. I have been reding a book about Perfect Spelling.According to the writer there are five steps that we should follow:
    See the word; think the word; feel the word; say the word; build the word.
    I haven't finished reading it. It seems there are some valuable strategies.
    I don't take anything for granted. I'll wait, test and see if the methodology works.

  21. It`s not the big, odd words that drive me insane. For those I automatically check the dictionary. It's the basic stuff I take for granted that gives me the biggest trouble. For example: I`ve been on long lost battles with definItely; loose (adj) and lose (v); wriTTen and wriTing (why on earth???) and -LY or -LLY.
    As for strategies: I read, read, read.
    I use Word`s spell check but not the auto-correction.
    And my poor Dic`s are all dog-eared ;-)

  22. @AndreaHi AndreaThank you for all your comments!I love the tips in the book you are reading (is the title Perfect Spelling?). P.S. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  23. @Andrea,

    Iám glad you´ve joined our blog; That book about spelling seems very interesting; let us know more about it when you finish it;

  24. @LucianaHi Luciana,Single or double "L" at the end of an adverb of manner is pretty easy to figure out.If the adjective ends in "L", double the "L":natural-naturally; careful-carefully;Otherwise, single "L":fortunate-fortunatelyWhat really gets on my nerves is "wich" instead of "which". My students never misspell the other "wh" words (what, where, who, whose, etc.).Why do they insist on misspelling "which"?