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The Top 10 Nightmare Words to Spell in English (Even for Native Speakers!)

The Top 10 Nightmare Words to Spell in English (Even for Native Speakers!)

Do you ever have problems spelling English words? Join the club. Nearly every single native English speaker, even academics, would say the same thing: English spelling is tough! That’s because it makes no sense, particularly in relation to the pronunciation.

There are spelling rules in English, but they are frequently broken. And irregular versions can be more common than their regular alternatives. It’s a bit of a nightmare for everybody. But that’s just the way it is, unfortunately.

The difficulty of English spelling is one of the main reasons why so much time is spent on spelling when kids are at school. Usually every week there is a spelling test to be had. And of course there are spelling bees – popular contests where kids compete to become spelling champions – all over the place, particularly in the United States.

So, what are the ten hardest words to spell in English? Well, no list can be definitive, but those included here are certainly among the most frustrating. And you’ll notice that some of these words are not even that complicated, but it doesn’t change the fact that people still regularly misspell them!

Their

It’s ‘e’ and then ‘I’ – so many people have problems remembering that combination. Fortunately, spellcheck services, such as the one offered by Linguix, can fix that mistake automatically for you. And it’s definitely not ‘there’, or ‘they’re’ – they are a totally different word.

Think of all the other words that have this combination of letters.

‘weird’

‘foreign’ (with the added pain of a silent ‘g’)

‘leisure’ (which is also pronounced completely differently in Britain, compared to the United States)

Believe it or not, there is an even a rhyme that is taught at school to help with spelling this combination. It goes like this:

‘’i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’.’

Except in ‘their’, ‘weird’, ‘foreign’, and ‘leisure’, of course!

At least the rhyme works in the word ‘receipt’! But then it’s got that ‘p’!

English, huh?!

Embarrassment

So how many ‘r’s and how many ‘s’s? It’s actually two of both, but you will see so many other combinations it would make you laugh, or cry!

Double letters always cause a problem when spelling in English. Speaking of which…

Misspell

How ironic that the word ‘misspell’ is so easy to misspell. Once again, it’s the double letters that cause the problem.

A little trick that helps here is remembering that the prefix is ‘mis’, and the word is spell. Add them together and of course you will have two ‘s’s. Hope that helps!

Calendar

Along with the ‘I + e’ combination, and double letters, knowing if a word should be spelled with an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ is a nightmare in English. Don’t think about the pronunciation, because that won’t help either.

Calendar is a typically example, because most people think that final ‘a’ should be an ‘e’. Because it sounds like one when you say the word. But it isn’t!

English, huh?!

Affect / effect

So many people get these words confused, mostly because we pronounce them the same way. However, ‘affect’ is the verb, and ‘effect’ is the noun. So…

“The budget of a movie seriously affects the quality of the special effects.”

That little sentence should help you remember the difference.

And why not use an online tool such as Linguix, which can give you the definition of the word with a simple click of the mouse. In that way, you’ll be sure to use the correct word in context.

Playwright

Shakespeare was a playwright, because he was a man who wrote plays. But shouldn’t that then mean that he was a play + write? Nope, because in old English, a ‘wright’ was a word which meant worker, so a cartwright was someone who built or fixed carts, for example.

Hence, playwright!

English, huh?!

Pronunciation

Another ironic word, because you may be able to pronounce it (notice the added ‘o’), but you won’t be able to spell the word pronunciation (wait, what happened to that ‘o’?)

Rhythm

When you get a word that doesn’t have any vowels, you have a real recipe for disaster. But where most people are okay with ‘gypsy’, the word ‘rhythm’ causes many more problems. There is no ‘e’!

Separate

We are back to our old friends ‘a’ and ‘e’ again. Remember ‘calendar’, well now meet ‘separate’! That middle vowel is an ‘a’, not an ‘e’. Don’t try saying the word again, it’s not going to help you!

Until / till

The formal word ‘until’ has only one ‘l’, but the shortened form ‘till’, which is also acceptable to use, has two ‘l’s.

‘Why?’

That is a question you never, ever ask about English spelling!

P.S. In the meantime, use our unique 30% off discount offer on a yearly Premium subscription to unlock the full power of our AI-based grammar-checking engine.  

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