Most Misspelled Words

Most Misspelled Words in English

In a world where first impressions matter, a misspelled word can undermine your efforts to make a positive impact. So, spelling mistakes are not a trivial matter. They diminish your credibility and professionalism, and they can make your message less clear.

Whether you're writing an academic paper, a job application, or a business email, spelling mistakes create an impression of carelessness and a lack of attention to detail.
"Misspelled" or "Misspelt"?

Before we look at the "Top 20 Misspelled Words" list, let's discuss the word "misspelled."

In British English, "misspelt" is an acceptable alternative to "misspelled."
  • misspelled words correct tick (small American flag) correct tick (small British flag)
  • misspelt words wrong cross (small American flag) correct tick (small British flag)

Top 20 Misspelled Words

Here are the top 20 misspelled words in English. This 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 correct tickseperate wrong cross
2calendar correct tickcalender wrong cross
3unnecessary correct tickunecessary wrong cross unnecesary wrong cross
4questionnaire correct tickquestionaire wrong cross
5accidentally correct tickaccidentaly wrong cross
6necessary correct tickneccessary wrong cross
7surprise correct ticksuprise wrong cross
8embarrass correct tickembarass wrong cross embarras wrong cross
9accommodation correct tickaccomodation wrong cross acommodation wrong cross
10receive correct tickrecieve wrong cross
11weird correct tickwierd wrong cross
12definitely correct tickdefinately wrong cross
13business correct tickbuisness wrong cross
14independent correct tickindependant wrong cross
15tattoo correct ticktatoo wrong cross
16beginning correct tickbegining wrong cross
17absence correct tickabsense wrong cross abcense wrong cross
18acknowledge correct tickacknowlege wrong cross aknowledge wrong cross
19diarrhoea correct tickdiarrea wrong cross diarrhea wrong cross
20conscience correct tickconscence wrong cross conshance wrong cross

Table of Contents

  • Why Is Spelling So Hard in English?
  • How To Fix Spelling Mistakes
  • The Top Ten Most Misspelled Words
  • Test Time!
  • Learn with Hangman!

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. wrong cross
  • (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.

The Top Ten Most Misspelled Words

top 10 misspelled words in English

Learn with Hangman!

Hangman is a classic word game. In this version, the hidden word is always a commonly misspelled word (but not necessarily from our "Top 20" list). Choose your first letter to start.
  • Guess the hidden word by choosing one letter at a time.
  • If you guess a letter in the hidden word, then all is good.
  • If you guess a letter that is not in the hidden word, then the hangman starts to build the gallows.
  • If the gallows are completed, you lose.
  • Good luck!
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Create Your Own Version of This Game

Here is the word library for this game:

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.