Common English Spelling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

English spelling mistakes happen because of the nuances of the English language, and this guide will help you identify and avoid them.

Spelling is necessary to proper English writing. Good writers generally assume they are also good spellers until they start digging into common English spelling mistakes. The English language has grown and developed over time, and as it has some spellings have changed.

Not only that, but English spelling is different in Australian English, British English, and American English. No wonder there is so much confusion among English writers! We did some research to determine what are the most common spelling mistakes in the English language, so you can avoid making them in your own writing.

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English Spelling Mistakes — The Research

How to avoid common english spelling mistakes

We performed some research about English words that people regularly misspell. Interestingly, the most commonly misspelled words are different based on where the English speaker lives. Some facts that we found include:

  • Favourite/Favorite is the most difficult word to spell across the English-speaking world.
  • Definitely and diarrhoea/diarrhea are runners-up.
  • In New Zealand, one of the most Googled spelling searches is “How to spell Australia.”
  • Potato is the top word that the Irish have trouble spelling.
  • Everyone is confused about spelling auntie/aunty. Interestingly, both are correct spellings.

Some things that trip up native speakers when spelling English words include:

  • Double letters, especially double consonants
  • Different spellings for English/British/Australian spellings
  • Homophones, 
  • Words with pronunciation different from the spelling

Why English is So Hard to Spell

English spelling mistakes
American English and British English are not the same

Across the globe, English remains one of the more challenging languages to learn that is rife with misspellings. Because English-speaking countries have had a global influence for centuries, it has become a “vampire” language, which means it absorbs words from other languages.

In the English vocabulary, you will find words that come from German, Latin, Greek, French, and even Spanish root words. Because these languages do not have the same spelling rules as English, the spelling changes.

In addition, American English and British English are not the same. Where “favorite” is correct in America, the word is “favourite” in England. Thus, a discussion of English spelling mistakes needs to have a breakdown between different countries.

Most Common Mispellings In The English Language

Because English is the language of several different countries, breaking down common misspellings is more challenging. However, across the English-speaking world, there are certain words that regularly come up in searches for how to spell. These include:

  • Gray/grey
  • Cancelled/canceled
  • Beautiful
  • Diarrhea/diarrhoea
  • Favorite/favourite
  • Auntie/aunty
  • Travelling/traveling
  • Michael
  • Honor/Honour
  • Counselor/Counsellor
  • Definitely 

Differences Between English and American Spelling

One of the reasons English can be difficult to spell is because American and British English spell words differently. For instance, American words that end in “or” typically end in “our” in British English, such as labour and labor. Some other common differences include:

  • The suffix -ize in American English is -ise in British (Apologize/apologise)
  • The ending “yze” in American English is “yse” in British (Analyze/analyse)
  • A double letter “l” in verbs ending in a vowel in British English, but not in American (Travelled/traveled)
  • Words spelled with an “e” in American English may have an “ae” or “oe” spelling in British English (manoeuvre/maneuver)
  • Some words ending in “ense” or “anse” in American English end in “ence” or “ance” in British (defense/defence)

Common Spelling Mistakes in the United Kingdom

Writers in the United Kingdom struggle to spell many words, but interestingly they are words that have their roots in the American English language. These words are:

  • Diarrhoea: Diarrhea in America
  • Favourite: Favorite in America
  • Definitely: Sometimes spelled defenetly, definately or definitely
  • Behaviour: Behavior in America
  • Honour: Honor in America
  • Assess: Sometimes misspelled asess or asses
  • Counsellor: Counselor in America
  • Auntie: Can also be Aunty
  • Travelling: Traveling in America

Common Spelling Mistakes in the United States

Interestingly, it is the difference between American and British spelling that trips up American writers as well. These words are the most commonly searched for their spelling in the U.S.:

  • Gray: Grey in England
  • Canceled: Cancelled in England
  • Beautiful: All those vowels confuse writers
  • Hors d'oeuvres: French word is confusing to English writers
  • Favorite: Favourite in England
  • Resume: Often confused because of two words with different pronunciations but the same spelling 
  • Tomorrow: Often incorrectly spelled tommorrow 
  • Forty: Fourty was once correct, but rarely used now
  • Bougie: Slang word that is difficult for many to spell
  • Definitely: Trips up Americans just like English writers

Common Spelling Mistakes in Canada

Canada is also among the English-speaking countries, and they have slightly different spellings than America. Canadian English tends to follow British spelling rules. Some words that are commonly confused as a result are:

  • Neighbour: Neighbor in America
  • License: Only the verb form in Canada, the noun is licence
  • Lose: Often confused with loose, which is a different word
  • Dessert: Often confused with desert, which is a different word 
  • Definitely: Sometimes spelled defenetly, definately or definitely
  • Niece: Common misspelling is neice
  • Received: Common misspelling is recieved
  • Receipt: Common misspelling is reciept
  • Beautiful: Vowels confuse writers
  • Counsellor: Counselor in America

Commonly Spelling Mistakes in Australia

In Australia, the double consonants that are common in British spelling, but not in American spelling, trip up writers quite often, as does the “o” vs “ou” spelling differences. Similarly, the suffix -ise is used in Australia, but -ize is the American spelling. Some of the most often misspelled words in Australia include:

  • Jewellery: Jewelry in America
  • Colour: Color in America
  • Definitely: Sometimes spelled defenetly, definately or definitely
  • Neighbour: Neighbor in America
  • Diarrhoea: Diarrhea in America
  • Aunt: The root word between the aunty/auntie debate
  • Dessert: Often confused with desert
  • Apologise: Apologize in America
  • Gorgeous: The three vowels at the end confuse writers

Common Spelling Mistakes in New Zealand

New Zealand has quite a bit in common with Australia and Britain. Its commonly misspelled words include:

  • Colour: Color in America
  • Aunty: Auntie is also correct
  • Favourite: Favorite in America
  • Diarrhoea: Diarrhea in America
  • Neighbour: Neighbor in America
  • Definitely: Sometimes spelled defenetly, definately or definitely
  • Gorgeous: The three vowels at the end remain confusing
  • Australia: The neighboring country confuses New Zealanders 
  • Believe: Often misspelled beleive
  • Vacuum: Sometimes misspelled vaccum or vaccuum

Common Spelling Mistakes in Ireland

In Ireland, some words are common with other countries, but it has some unique words on its common misspelling lists. Here are the most commonly searched spelling terms in Ireland:

  • Potato: May be misspelled potatoe
  • Gorgeous: Common challenging word because of the vowels
  • Programme: Program in America
  • Madam: Sometimes spelled madame
  • Throat: Sometimes misspelled throte
  • Definitely: Difficult for most English speaking countires
  • Anniversary: Often mistaken for aniversary
  • Colour: Color in America
  • Sympathy: The “y” at the beginning of the word confuses some Irish writers

Other Tricky English Words

While these words are unique to different countries, there are some English words that are universally difficult to spell beyond these. They include:

  1. Absence: Misspelled as abcense, absance, and absense
  2. Acceptable: Misspelled acceptible 
  3. Accommodate: Misspelled as acommodate or accomodate
  4. Acknowledge: Misspelled as acknowelge or aknowledge
  5. Acquaintance: Misspelled acquaintence or aquaintance
  6. A lot: Misspelled as one word, alot
  7. Awful: Misspelled awfull or aweful
  8. Because: Misspelled becuase
  9. Beginning: Misspelled begining
  10. Bureaucracy: Misspelled bureacrucy
  11. Business: Misspelled buisness
  12. Calendar: Misspelled calender
  13. Colleague: Misspelled collaegue or collegue
  14. Concede: Misspelled conceed
  15. Conscience: Misspelled concious or consious 
  16. Consensus: Misspelled concensus 
  17. Embarrass: Misspelled embarass
  18. Entrepreneur: Misspelled entreprenure
  19. Fascinating: Misspelled facinating
  20. Foreign: Misspelled foriegn
  21. Government: Misspelled goverment
  22. Guarantee: Misspelled garantee, garentee or garanty
  23. Hygiene: Misspelled hygene, hygiene or higeine
  24. Immediately: Misspelled imediately
  25. Independent: Misspelled independant
  26. Intelligence: Misspelled inteligence or intelligance
  27. Judgment: Misspelled judgement
  28. Kernel: Misspelled kernal or mistaken for homophone colonel
  29. Leisure: Misspelled liesure
  30. Liaison: Misspelled liason
  31. Lightning: Misspelled lightening
  32. Liquefy: Misspelled liquafy or liquify
  33. Memento: Misspelled momento
  34. Miniature: Misspelled miniture
  35. Minuscule: misspelled miniscule 
  36. Mischievous: Misspelled mischievious, mischievous or mischevious
  37. Misspell: Misspelled mispell or misspel
  38. Necessary: Misspelled neccessary or necessery
  39. Noticeable: Misspelled noticable
  40. Occasion: Misspelled occassion 
  41. Occurrence: Misspelled occurrance or occurence
  42. Outrageous: Misspelled outragous
  43. Particularly: Misspelled particulary
  44. Pastime: Misspelled passtime or pasttime 
  45. Plagiarize: Misspelled plagerize
  46. Possession: Misspelled posession or possesion
  47. Precede: Misspelled preceed
  48. Presence: Misspelled presance
  49. Privilege: Misspelled privelege or priviledge
  50. Pronunciation: Misspelled pronounciation  
  51. Publicly: Misspelled publically
  52. Queue: Misspelled que
  53. Questionnaire: Misspelled questionaire or questionnair
  54. Really: Misspelled realy
  55. Recommend: Misspelled recomend or reccommend
  56. Religious: Misspelled religous or religius
  57. Separate: Misspelled seperate
  58. Sergeant: Misspelled sargent
  59. Successful: Misspelled succesful, successfull or sucessful
  60. Supersede: Misspelled supercede
  61. Tomorrow: Misspelled tommorow or tommorrow
  62. Twelfth: Misspelled twelth
  63. Tyranny: Misspelled tyrany
  64. Underrate: Misspelled underate
  65. Unnecessary: Misspelled unecessary or unneccessary
  66. Upholstery: Misspelled upholstry
  67. Vacuum: Misspelled vaccuum, vaccum or vacume
  68. Withhold: Misspelled withold

How to Avoid Common Misspellings

English spelling mistakes are common, but if you are going to be a skilled writer you need to learn to avoid spelling errors. First, study this list of common mistakes. If you are guilty of any of them, take the time to learn the correct spellings.

Next, make sure you are using grammar and spell check software every time you write. Whether you are an ESL student trying to learn English or a native speaker, you are going to make mistakes. A spellchecker and grammar checker like Grammarly will help you catch those mistakes.

When using a spellchecker, make sure to set it to the appropriate style of English. this will ensure you are getting the English or British spelling correct.

A Final Word On English Spelling Mistakes

The English language is challenging because many words come from different languages, so many words are not spelled the way they sound. In addition, English spellings vary based on the part of the world where the writer is from. This can make the language a huge challenge to learn.

To make yourself a skilled English speller, take some time to study these common misspellings. Avoid them in your writing, and use grammar and spelling checkers to look for typos and other problems. Soon you will be able to create writing that is free from English spelling mistakes.

FAQs About English Spelling Mistakes

How Can I Improve My English Spelling Mistakes?

The best way to avoid spelling mistakes is to use a spellchecker every time you write. Also, take the time to memorize the common spelling mistakes that you make in your writing.

What are the most common spelling mistakes in English?

Some of the most common mistakes in English spelling include:
1. Separate
2. Definitely
3. Embarrass
4. Occurrence
5. Consensus
6. Unnecessary
7. Acceptable
8. Bureaucracy
9. Supersede
10. Questionnaire
11. A lot
12. Entrepreneur
13. Particularly
14. Liquefy
15. Conscience

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