DailyWritingTips

Spotting and Avoiding Common Spelling Errors: Correct Your Writing by Cutting Out These Common Mistakes

When creating an engaging, persuasive and professional piece of writing, spelling accuracy is a no-brainer. So, I’ve broken down the must-know details about proper spelling and added some key strategies for spotting and avoiding common spelling errors.

Why Proper Spelling Is So Important

Why-Proper-Spelling-Is-So-Important.

Spelling is often overlooked, but it’s our foundation for effective communication. Accurate spelling conveys your thoughts clearly, fosters reader comprehension, and boosts credibility. Mistakes can distract readers and lead to misunderstandings, diluting your message’s purpose.

Key Spelling Rules

There are numerous spelling rules in English, but there are some basics.

  •  I before E except after C: believe, field, achieve, friend 
  • Using C before E, I, and Y: society, ceiling, cycle, receive, conceive, deceive
  • G before A, O, U, and sometimes E: guest, gauge,  gear, goad

These rules aren’t foolproof, but they provide a helpful guide.

The Most Common Spelling Errors

Common spelling mistakes include mix-ups like they’re, their, and there, or your versus you’re. Other common errors occur in terms of hyphenation and distinguishing between two-word and one-word terms, such as everyday versus every day.

American English vs. UK and Canada

Remember, spelling can vary between American, UK, and Canadian English, such as the difference between how Americans write color and how Brits and Canadians write colour. Familiarize yourself with these differences if you’re writing for an international audience.

The US always uses the shorter version of a word, but most other English-speaking countries have adopted the practice of adding the letter u or other extra letters. So, if you ever ask yourself, “Is it colour or color? Is it traveling or travelling?” Always know that the shorter word is the American spelling.

The Hardest Words to Spell

Some words, like accommodate, handkerchief and maintenance, are notoriously tricky due to silent letters, doubled letters or unusual combinations. Practice these regularly to improve.

One of my best practices is breaking the words up into smaller words and syllables.

  • Handkerchief = hand + ker + chief
  • Accommodate = ac + com + modate

And so on. Not only does this create smaller words that are easier to remember, but it can also create a visual cue, which is another way some people remember to spell certain words.

Homophones and How to Deal With Them

Homophones sound alike but have different meanings and spellings, like their and there. Context is key to choosing the right homophone, so always reread sentences for clarity. The full sentence will always determine the word’s meaning and also which one to use.

  • Correct: I love their new patio lanterns! (Their is a possessive pronoun used to show who owns the lanterns.)
  • Incorrect: I love there new patio lanterns. (There is a pronoun we use to depict a location.)
  • Correct: I love their new patio lanterns over there. (This shows the proper use of both terms.)

Self-Checking

Proofread your work! It’s a simple yet powerful strategy. Regular breaks can also help by providing a fresh perspective when you return to the text.

Utilize tools like Microsoft Word’s built-in spellchecker, Google Docs spell checker, proofreaders, and even reading out loud to yourself. I find this to be one of the best free tools for proofreading my own work. 

Sometimes I sit and read the content out loud. Other times, I’ll use Microsoft’s voice feature to read my work back to me in audio form. It’s a great way to catch typos!

Visual Spelling Strategies

Visual learners can benefit from writing words out or using color-coded flashcards. Seeing the word, especially in different colors, can help engrain the correct spelling in your memory.

Morphemic Spelling Strategies

Understanding the root words, prefixes and suffixes can help you spell complex words. I touched on this under the Hard Words to Spell section. For instance, unhappiness can be broken down into un + happy + ness.

Using Editing Programs

Tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid can give you a nice safety net because they help identify spelling errors you might have missed. But remember, they’re not foolproof, so a personal review is still recommended.

Perfect Your Spelling Skills

You can become a more confident, accurate speller by embracing these tips and dedicating time to practice. You’ll enhance your written communication, ensuring your message resonates clearly and professionally with your readers.