'I am very poor at spelling.'

I can never spell it correctly.

or ‘I can’t say whether it is spelt with –ie or -ei.

These are the kind of statements you often hear people making when they talk of spelling.

With some effort you can overcome your spelling problems.

Try the following as an aid to better spelling.

1. Divide the words into syllables

If you pronounce words syllable by syllable it will help you develop your spelling.

The following examples have been divided for you into syllables.

A good dictionary shows the syllabic division of words.

2. Use prefixes and suffixes

Some words may be considered as having joints.

Such joints are found at points where prefixes and suffixes meet word roots.

It is at these joints that spelling mistakes are often made.


3. Take note of trouble spots

It is not whole words that are usually difficult to spell.

It is only certain letters within words that cause spelling difficulties.

These are referred to as spelling trouble spots.

Some trouble spots in the following examples are written in bold type.


4. Pronunciation and spelling

1. The correspondence between the spelling and pronunciation of some English words is confusing.

Some pairs of words have some resemblance in the way they are spelt but are pronounced differently.


2. Spelling mistakes are sometimes made from the mispronunciation of words, or even the direct pronunciation of words.


More suggestions on spelling

The following are some more suggestions to help you spell correctly.

You will find that few of the suggestions are without exceptions.

They must therefore be used carefully, and not regarded as spelling rules.

1. /i/ comes before /e/ when the sound is /e/, except after /c/.


/ie/ believe, thief, chief, relief.

/ei/ receive, conceive, deceive.

2. When a suffix beginning with a consonant is added to a word that ends with an /e/, the /e/ is usually maintained.


  1. manage + ment = management
  2. judge + ment = judgement
  3. engage + ment = engagement.                                                 Some exceptions to this are:

       1. argue + ment = argument
      2. true + ly = truly
      3. awe + full = awful.

3. When a suffix beginning with a vowel is added to a word ending with a single consonant, that consonant is doubled.


  1. begin + ing = beginning
  2. refer + ed = referred
  3. compel + ing = compelling
  4. travel + er = traveller
  5. plot + ed = plotted.

Some exceptions include:

  1. develop + ing = developing
  2. profit + er = profiteer!

4. When /-full/ is added to another word, it usually loses one /l/


  1. care + full = careful
  2. fear + full = fearful
  3. harm + full = harmful
  4. colour + full = colourful
  5. awe + full = awful!

5. When /-full/ is added to another word with double /ll/, both words lose one /l/.


  1. skill + full = skilful (but skilfully)
  2. full + fill = fulfil (but fulfilled)

Commonly Misspelled Words

Letters in words that are usually misspelled are shown below.

Carefully read through them and practise your spelling.

The following are commonly misspelled expressions.

The numbers in brackets show the number of words meant to be in an expression. 

Why do some English words have the same pronunciation, but different meanings and


For example son and sun.

  • syllables by eLimu used under CC_BY-SA
  • prefixes by eLimu used under CC_BY-SA
  • trouble-spots by eLimu used under CC_BY-SA
  • pronounciation2 by eLimu used under CC_BY-SA
  • pronounciation by eLimu used under CC_BY-SA
  • misspelled2 by eLimu used under CC_BY-SA
  • misspelled by eLimu used under CC_BY-SA
  • misspelled-expressions by eLimu used under CC_BY-SA
  • spelling by elimu used under CC_BY

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