Never take your spell checker for granted. I usually have no trouble with spelling, but I’ve noticed my skills gradually deteriorating. Well, I’ve misspelled one too many times; I need to take action!
Introducing the well-known frustrations of the English language, this article explains How Spelling Got to Be So Difficult.
Now, for an overview, here are Some Rules and Suggestions About Spelling. This article doesn’t cover everything, but it’s the most complete one I’ve found.
Spelling Tips and Rules
Pronunciation and Spelling
First of all, notice that many common spelling errors result from pronouncing a word incorrectly. AskOxford has some tips on spelling words with Unstressed Syllables. For other common mistakes, see this list of The Most Often Mispronounced Words in English.
So, either pronounce the word correctly or remember an exaggerated pronunciation; for example, I hear “BEE-AY-YOU-tiful” in my head whenever I write “beautiful” – a habit left over from third grade.
Just Plain Annoying Words
AskOxford – my hero! – points out some common causes of misspellings.
Words That Change Their Spelling
With so many exceptions and so few rules, English complicates even the simplest of words. Why is food edible and water drinkable? Well, I found the answer! (See the first link.)
Lists of Problem Words
Commonly Misspelled Words
- Spelling Therapy - common errors are color-coded.
- Wikipedia's List of Common Misspellings in English - includes common misspellings.
- The Most Often Misspelled Words in English - comments on each word.
- Fun With Words: Commonly Misspelled Words - includes some common misspellings.
- AskOxford: Commonly Misspelled Words - tips on spelling each word correctly.
- Common Words That Sound Alike - explanations of some commonly confused words.
- List of Homophones on Wikipedia - extensive list organized by sound.
Keep a list of your own commonly misspelled words. (See my list.) For tips to remember the correct spelling, see Improve Your Vocabulary - Remember New Words.
- Some Rules and Suggestions About Spelling - several spelling quizzes at the bottom of the page.
- Spelling Bee Quizzes and Trivia - 32 different quizzes, varying levels of difficulty.
- Funbrain's Spell Check Game - choose the misspelled word and spell it correctly, easy and hard.
- Miss Spelling's Ultimate Spelling Exercise - choose the correct spelling of 100 commonly misspelled words.
- A Spelling Test - choose the correct spelling of 50 commonly misspelled words.
American Vs. British Spelling
- American and British English Spelling Differences - lots of information on usage and history.
- Spelling Differences Between British and American English - lists key spelling differences, including different verb forms (like dreamed vs. dreamt).
- American and British Spelling Differences - categorized list of spelling variations, almost 500 words.
- American and British Spelling Variations - alphabetical list of spelling variations, over 450 words.
Studying a word’s origins will also help you remember its spelling. This article lists many, many examples: Sounds and Spelling in English Words: Some Correspondences with Language of Origin.
For more etymology links (dictionaries, articles, podcasts, and quizzes), see my post on English Etymology Resources.