Difficult Spelling

Difficult Spelling

Of all the languages, English is the most accommodating. It has borrowed from virtually all the languages (popular) in the world. Interestingly, it tends to maintain the morphological structure of any word it borrows. This has caused the irregularity in the spelling of some words that sound alike but are spelt differently or words that have similarly spellings but are pronounced differently.

See for instance, the difference between receive and believe. The letters of focus, ei/ie in either word are jointly pronounced /i:/, yet ordered differently. Examiners cash in on this irregularity to test students painstaking attention to this minute yet germane areas in spelling.

Before we go into some example of difficult words, let’s discuss why students spell wrongly:

Assumption Arising From Overgeneralisation of Rules.

English language has some basic rules that can guide one to learn especially at the very basic levels. However, these rules should not be over-generalised as there are exceptions. These exceptions are the areas of interest of examiners as observed in their mode of questions.

For instance, the ending order of words like knowledge, porridge, cartridge etc can cause language users to overgeneralise and assume that all words that rhyme with them should be spelt alike.


Privilege goes for priviledge

Sacrilege goes for sacrilegde

Other examples are: precede, exceed, concede, succeed, proceed, secede, etc

Word formation

When new words are formed from existing ones using prefixes and suffixes, some letters from the old words are dropped or changed. Often times, language user don’t take cognisance of this, they still retain the old letter/s and this becomes an error.

move + able = movable (‘e’ is dropped)

pronounce + ation = pronunciation (‘o’ is dropped and ‘e’ changed to ‘i’)

Foreign Word

Some words came from another language with their peculiarity of spelling. Except you make effort to learn them, meeting them in the exam hall for the first time, can pose a lot of difficulty. Examples are:

etiquette, chauffeur, beau, camouflage, façade, entrepreneur

Varieties of the Language

In this era when American English is very prominent, candidates in countries where British English is used for official matters need to be very careful not to allow the popular American variety sway them into ‘errors’. For instance:


Silent Letters

Some words in English have letters that are not pronounced. If one spells the way such a word is pronounced, an error is bound to occur. Below are such examples with the silent letters in bold.

separate, mnemonic, psychology, campaign, paradigm

Double Letters

Some words have certain letters that are doubled and of course with one sound. You may mistakenly use of one letter instead of two or double a wrong letter. Examples are:

embarrassment, exaggeration, aberration, occurrence, occasion, harassment, referred, occurred, misspell 

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