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What are Some of the Most Commonly Misspelled Words in English?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A wide assortment of words are frequently misspelled in English, including the word “misspelled” itself. Both native English speakers and English learners have trouble spelling many words since they do not follow common laws of spelling and they cannot be spelled phonetically, as challenging words in other languages often can be. The most commonly misspelled words can plague even experienced writers. It is an excellent idea to analyze the words that you personally misspell most frequently, in the hopes of identifying weak points in your spelling so that you can improve.

Many of the most commonly misspelled words have combinations of double letters which can be confusing and disorientating. Some of these words include accommodate, a notorious misspelled word, along with embarrassment, unnecessary, guerrilla, occasion, and commitment. The most commonly misspelled words often include a double C, which can look strange on the page since it may not be obvious when the word is spoken aloud. If a word has a hard C sound followed by a soft C as in access, accident, or accessory, it probably has a double C.

Others among the most commonly misspelled words have letter combinations which may seem unfamiliar or strange, sometimes because they are borrowed from other languages. Twelfth, acquaintance, fiery, medieval, acknowledgment, and fluorescent are some common examples of these words. The spelling patterns in these words must be individually learned; twelfth, for example, contains an awkward letter combination which you are unlikely to encounter in other English words.

Some spellers are also struggle with E's. There are words like weird which violate the “I before E” rule, and there are also words like cemetery, precedence, independent, existence, and perseverance which seem to have too many E's when spellers look at them on the page. Many spellers add A's to these words, not realizing that an E can make a sound like an A in some cases.

Other words like maintenance, conscientious, judgment, sacrilegious, privilege, and definitely are just hard to spell, and they often pop up on lists of most commonly misspelled words. Many spellers add extra letters to them, or confuse letters when they try to write these words out on the page. Another common problem is spelling a word correctly, but not realizing that the word has a homonym; principals may have principles that help them know how to run a school, for example. People also routinely mix up their/there/they're, and its/it's in writing. While not strictly misspellings, these errors can be glaring, and it is an excellent idea to review your work with an eye for these common mistakes.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bonalba — On Aug 11, 2010

Most of the above comments/answers will surely depend on which version of English is used -

US or UK?

By anon80456 — On Apr 27, 2010

A lot of people spell a lot of words wrong because they don't feel like looking it up and or that is how it sounds it is spelled.

By anon44162 — On Sep 05, 2009

being an older student in college, it is apparent that I should have paid close attention to my many english teachers. There is an art to being a good writer and a *good* speller.

By malena — On Jan 28, 2008

how about legislator and legislature? ... legislature being the lawmaking body, and legislator being a member of the lawmaking body. i also hear (not here ;)) this one (not won ;)) mispronounced a lot -- people tend to say legislature when they mean legislator.

By anon7122 — On Jan 18, 2008

Another pair of commonly misspelled and misused words: personal (pertaining to a person) and personnel (the body of persons employed in any occupation ).

By anon7099 — On Jan 18, 2008

An actual list of commonly mispronounced words and their correct vocals would be utterly helpful.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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