Most Misspelled Words

by Craig Shrives

This Page Includes...

The Top 20 Misspelled Words in English

The first word we need to address is "misspelled." In British English, "misspelt" is an acceptable alternative.

Our "Top 20" list is ordered by the number of times the misspellings were Googled in one month. (Where there are two common misspellings, an average was used.)
PositionCorrect
Spelling
Common
Misspelling
1separate seperate
2calendar calender
3unnecessary unecessary unnecesary
4questionnaire questionaire
5accidentally accidentaly
6necessary neccessary
7surprise suprise
8embarrass embarass embarras
9accommodation accomodation acommodation
10receive recieve
11weird wierd
12definitely definately
13business buisness
14independent independant
15tattoo tatoo
16beginning begining
17independent independant
18acknowledge acknowlege aknowledge
19diarrhoea diarrea diarrhea
20conscience conscence conshance

Why Is Spelling So Hard in English?

Here are the five most common causes of spelling mistakes.

(1) Inconsistency with Vowels

In English, the sounds of the vowels are inconsistent, and this is a main cause of spelling mistakes. Here are some examples that highlight the inconsistency of vowel sounds:
inconsistent vowels
finite
definite
bead
bread
tree
puree
said
braid
lose
close
woman
women

(2) Lack of Clarity with Vowels

In many English words, it is unclear which vowel features in one or more of the syllables. Often, the vowel sounds like a short "uh" sound, leaving the writer guessing which vowel made that sound. (This short "uh" sound is called a schwa. It is represented by this symbol ə, i.e., an upside down "e".)

In these examples, the bold vowels sound like schwas:
vowelvowel as a schwa
a
salad
,
alphabet
,
thousand
e
elephant
,
taken
,
item
i
animal
,
cousin
,
pencil
o
bottom
,
dinosaur
,
phantom
u
rhombus
,
upon
,
supply

(3) Spelling Inconsistency with Consonants

As a rule, the sounds of the consonants are more consistent, but not always. For example:
inconsistent consonants
lose
loose
desperate
desert
give
ginger
mentor
mention
Also, there are spelling inconsistencies, particularly with double letters (e.g., "till" and "until"). It is fairly rare, but in some words the consonants are silent. For example:
silent consonants
knife
gnome
pneumatic

(4) Typing Errors

Typing errors are another common cause of misspelling. Typically, with typing errors, the letters are transposed (e.g., "teh" instead of "the" or "becuase" instead of "because").

(5) Homophones and Near Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings. For example:
homophones
aid
aide
altar
alter
awe
oar
bear
bare
break
brake
chord
cord
If you use the wrong homophone, your computer's spellchecker probably won't spot it because a wrong homophone could feasibly be correct. For example:
  • John has strong principals, and he refuses to perform this task.
  • (The context tells us that "principals" is the wrong homophone. It should be "principles." However, your spellchecker and your grammar checker might not spot this mistake because "principals" is spelled correctly, and "strong principals" (i.e. strong head teachers) is a grammatically sound piece of English.)
Here are 220 easily confused words, i.e., homophones and near homophones that are regularly confused by writers.

How To Fix Spelling Mistakes

Here are two useful techniques to improve your spelling:

(1) Tell Yourself a Story

Word"Story"
rhythmr + helps your two hips move
separateThere's "a rat" in separate
accommodationThere is enough accommodation for 2 Cs, 2 Ms, and 3 Os.
If you or your students struggle with a certain word, make up a "story" to ensure the correct spelling can be recalled.

(2) Break the Word Down

To help with spelling, break the word down into prefixes, root words, and suffixes.
PrefixRoot WordSuffixCorrect Spelling
mis-spell-ingmisspelling
dis-respect-ful -lydisrespectfully
Read more about improving your English spelling.

More about "Misspell"

The various forms of the "misspell" all have a double s (one at the end of the prefix "mis" and one at the start of the verb root "spell.")

Even though misspelling "misspell" is common, it did not make our "Top 20" list. Read more about misspelled and misspelt.
top 10 misspelled words in English

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See Also

What is a diphthong? What is a schwa vowel? Top 10 spelling rules in English Are collective nouns (e.g., "team," "group") singular or plural? Is "agenda" singular or plural? Is "data" singular or plural

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