Rules for silent vowels and vowel pairs, the use of prefixes and suffixes and how to form adjectives and adverbs make phonetics only a part-time learning tool.
Some words' spelling has to be memorized in conjunction with their meaning. Poll and pole are a case in point. Which one suggests a survey and which one is a long, slender piece of wood or metal?
Whether you are just learning English or are already fluent, you should have spotted ten spelling mistakes in the first sentence.
If so, you are ready to explore the top ten misspelled words of the English language. Along the way, you will find tips to start you on the path to proper spelling, every time.
Misspelled is in fact one of the most misspelled words in the English language.
English Word Origins
Learning word etymology is generally not a part of mainstream English teaching. English lessons usually emphasize spelling rules as a facet of basic English, rather than delving deeper into each word and how it acquired its meaning, and how its spelling and meaning have changed through time. But don't forget the many exceptions in the English language.
The English vocabulary is made up of words from several other languages. How those words are written in English - as opposed to their native language - may be a bit different but the meaning is close, if not the same as the original.
If you are an international student, you may recognise several English words with roots in French.
One such noun, government, ranks high on the list of words that are routinely incorrect both in written and spoken English.
Native speakers and ESL students alike omit the n in the middle of the word. For proper English speaking, that letter must be spoken.
A handy way to remember how to spell and speak this word is by learning its root and related words: govern, governor, and governance.
In each of these words, the n is pronounced. Adding the suffix -ment does not remove any of the root word's letters.
If you are learning business English, this group of words would be a vital addition to your vocabulary.
To study English in depth, you should investigate where tricky words come from.
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Double Consonant Pairs
The list of words with that criterion is rather longer than one would immediately think.
Although all of these words often stump even native English speakers, only two words on this list are routinely written wrong by natives and non natives alike: accommodate and occurrence.
Both of these have their roots in the Latin language, one in which words often feature letter doubling – more of consonants than vowels.
If you are learning English as a second language, one of the best ways to incorporate proper spelling and speaking of words is to know where they came from and how they were originally used.
Learn English usage of Pre- and Suffixes
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the most commonly misspelled word in the English language is the adverb publicly.
Adverbs made from adjectives, such as finally, normally and typically give the impression that every adverb must be written with a -ally suffix.
Adverbs are formed by adding only -ly
Because the adjective public does not end in -al – as final, normal and typical do, all you have to add to public is the adverbial suffix -ly, making the correct spelling of the word publicly.
This mistake happens so often that publically has earned its own entry into most English dictionaries.
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To improve your proficiency in changing adjectives into adverbs, you can practise your skills with online quizzes.
How to Correct These Expressions
Non native and native speakers alike confuse some words' root spelling with how to write it as an adverb.
As you practise English, you should recognize these words as improperly spelled (the correct spelling is in parentheses):
disposable (a reversal of the mistake, often written disposible)
capeable (a bizarre combination of cape and able)
Even though it makes sense that adding -able to a word gives a clue to the word's meaning, ending a word with a suffix does not change the fundamental spelling of the word.
How Slang and Regional Dialects Impact Spelling Ability
Admittedly, some people do indeed say those words listed above as though there were an a rather than an i in the third syllable. Oftentimes, this comes from a local dialect - the way people from a given region use the language.
Another portion of blame falls on the growing use of ordinary vocabulary as slang terms. This phenomenon has become so prevalent that there is a website which regularly updates their list of words misused as slang.
In spite of regional dialect or slang usage of any word, as an English learner, you should always spell and use every word correctly.
Language learners all over the world naturally gravitate to the most trendy, up-to-date vernacular of the country they are in.
The typical native English speaker admittedly uses many slang words and phrases during the course of everyday conversation, a substantial number of which are born from the entertainment industry.
Musicians are especially adept at creating new spelling of words and phrases in an attempt to reflect their new, cool style.
You, who work so hard at language learning, should not be waylaid by such cavalier use of words... at least not until you can speak and write in English more or less fluently.
However, one artist to follow would be Weird Al Yankovic, whose video Word Crimes chastises those whose writing skills are lacking, or those who mistreat the language.
Improper Use of Homophones
According to Merriam Webster, the foremost dictionary of American English, a homophone is a word that sounds like a word with a different meaning, regardless of whether it is spelled the same.
Thanks to word processing programs with auto-correct features and spell checkers, these days, people tend to be less concerned with proper spelling, counting on the machine to catch their mistakes.
While a spell checker is an excellent tool to catch and point out mistakes, auto-correct could actually impede your progress in mastering English – and lower your grade!
Imagine you are writing an essay for your english lessons online. Within your text is this sentence:
“I leave all of my worldly belongings to my airs.”
Your word processing software will not recognize any errors because everything is spelled correctly.
Unfortunately, the word you wrote is a homophone for heirs - meaning: people who have a right of inheritance.
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Using the wrong homophone, even though correctly spelled, will result in a spelling error rather a vocabulary error on quizzes and exams.
It would be best to add them to your new words list and learn them well, lest they cost you points on your qualification exams.
Tips to Help You Improve Your Spelling and Grammar Skills
Memorize word in groups – all of the words associated with it, or any word derived from it.
- Study this list of most commonly misspelled words put together by Oxford University
Take time to discover where the words you are studying come from. Oftentimes, etymology can help you understand why a word is spelled in the fashion it is.
Learning prefixes and suffixes can help you understand meanings of words as well as spell them properly.
Set your computer's spell check to manual, so that words that need revision will be highlighted, for you to correct by yourself.
Disable the auto-correct function in your word processing program.
Doing so forces you to develop your spelling and grammar skills without relying on the machine to fix mistakes.
Take practice quizzes to challenge your abilities.
Going beyond rote memorization of vocabulary by: grouping words into families, by tracing the origin of words, and applying extensions correctly, you are putting yourself on the path of complete, in-depth learning of English and better spelling ability.
You can improve your English listening skills by downloading and playing podcasts from the British Council website.
They are hosted by speakers who use Oxford English, spoken clearly and concisely. The short segments inform and educate on a variety of topics, not the least of which are English grammar and vocabulary. Learn to to avoid common English Grammar mistakes here.
You can exercise your English pronunciation by printing out the segment's transcript and reading along.
Language is a living art
By learning how to express yourself in writing, with every word carefully chosen and properly spelled, you are contributing the the story and evolution of the language itself.
As if you didn't have motivation enough to learn English as thoroughly as you can, doesn't that inspire you to champion-level spelling?
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