Spelling Mistakes

English spelling causes problems for both native speakers and second language learners. Can you guess which words cause the most difficulty?

Write down what
you think are the ten most often misspelt words.

Then check your answers
here. How many of your words are on the list?
What makes some English words difficult to spell? One clear source of difficulty is caused by inconsistent pronunciation: many sound out definately when the spelling points to definitely(2). And comparatively few outside the Royal Shakespeare Company clearly enunciate separate (1) - more typically the 'a' becomes an 'e'. This problem is most glaring when (many) young people transcribe 'could have' as 'could of' or a lot as 'alot' (14)

In some cases the problem is an unexpected combination of letters without phonetic clues - bureaucracy (11) and manoeuvre (3) are examples here. In both these cases the spelling pattern is literally foreign: French to be precise. Until comparatively recently a basic knowledge of French was assumed of every 'educated' English speaker but this is no longer the case. The same applies to those other providers of hidden spelling rules: Latin and Greek.

Uncertainty as to whether to use 'c' rather than 's' is hazard for consensus (6) supersede (12) conscience (19) and - at . Similarly, the what creates the 'ck' sound in liquify (18).

By far the most difficult hurdle for any speller, however, is the dreaded double letter dilemma. Two 'n's or one? Does two 'c's look right? Unnecessary has the double-whammy of c/s confusion and a double letter dillemna.

Spellcheck will help, of course, which is why many young people delegate the job entirely to that marvellous (2 'l's) programme (1 'm' and drop the 'e' in the US or amongst techies).

Sadly technology has not yet produced a spell-checking pen for that hand-written application form.

Ten most misspelled words
1. Separate 2. Definitely 3. Manoeuvre 4. Embarrass 5. Occurrence 6. Consensus 7. Unnecessary 8. Acceptable 9. Broccoli 10. Referred 11. Bureaucracy 12. Supersede 13. Questionnaire 14. Connoisseur 15. A lot 16. Entrepreneur 17. Particularly 18. Liquify 19. Conscience 20. Parallel

: Daily Telegraph 06 August 2010

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