how to spell better and get ahead in life with lessons from spelling bee winners

In an age of evolving technology, 140-character messages, and video and images taking over our media lives, spelling still matters—a lot.

Spell a word wrong today and you could fail a test or miss out on a date, a book deal, a promotion, or an important business deal.

Although autocorrect and spell check tools are amazing—and have helped untold people write better every day—good spelling skills still help us in ways you may not even realize.

Let’s talk about why spelling is such an important skill—and what you can do to start spelling better today with lessons from Scripps spelling bee winners, grammar experts, and bestselling authors!

Why It’s So Hard to Spell Correctly

Every language has its quirks, but it seems like English was designed to trip people up!

Spelling words in English correctly is tough for a few reasons:

  • Words are often spelled differently from how they’re pronounced
  • Certain combinations of letters sound one way in one word and completely differently in another
  • Some letters sometimes aren’t even pronounced at all!

No wonder people have stopped caring about spelling…it’s one headache after another.

But we can’t really blame English—it’s a victim of circumstance.

why English is so hard and why it's difficult to spell correctly

Why English is a Weird Language

You see, English is the result of a few very different languages colliding. Anglo-Saxon, German, French, Latin, and Greek all made significant contributions to the creation of modern English—and then we’ve also gone and picked up words from all over the world to add to our stash.

This has resulted in a written language that doesn’t really resemble the spoken language all that closely—the combinations of letters that make certain sounds aren’t consistent.

All that confusion has been around for basically as long as English has been a recognized language. And, of course, the way we spell has been changing for just as long. English is a living language; it changes and evolves with the times.

Go pick up a copy of the Canterbury Tales and compare it to any of Shakespeare’s plays, then compare that to any modern novel. (If you’ve ever tried to read the Canterbury Tales, it’s supposedly written in English, but I can’t understand a single sentence of it!)

The way we spell is constantly evolving—and people are always trying to make how we speak and how we write easier to match up.

That has led to attempts to reform spelling practices over the years, from introducing phonetic spelling (writing night as niit, for instance) to trying to add silent letters to words in order to make them more closely represent how the word came to be (etymological spelling).

The debate about spelling has been going on for centuries, waged in schools, universities, and even corporate boardrooms and newspapers.

In 1983, International Paper Company ran a series of print ads called “Why Print Matters” that featured famous authors, actors, and more discussing why print and paper were still important in the newly blossoming digital age.

In one ad, author John Irving explained why spelling matters. Michael Gottsacker, the communications director at Russell Herder, a marketing communications agency in Minneapolis, shared his copy:

But while authors, editors, educators, linguists, pundits, and others argue about the “right” way to spell and learn to spell, mostly we just kind of go with the flow—we have dictionaries full of words with accepted ways to spell them, and that’s what we all agree to go by.

Why Spelling Still Matters

So if we have dictionaries and spell check and a zillion other tools to tell us how a word is supposed to look when written down, why do we need to know the principles of spelling?

Can’t the computer just do it for us?

Well, no—spell check isn’t perfect. And besides, how many times has autocorrect let you down, changing “correct” to “cucumber” or “auditioning” to “auctioning”? Heck, there’s an entire website devoted to hilarious (and often NSFW) autocorrect malfunctions.

As Nancy K. Gretzinger, EdD, a retired educator, says, “Even if you use spell check, Grammarly, etc, you have to have some basic spelling abilities. How do you start spelling a word for these tools if you don’t know where to begin? Even with a doctorate, I sometimes find myself typing on a blank page and using tools to check spelling before I even get started.

So we can’t rely on technology to make us into brilliant spelling geniuses.

Does that even matter? Who really cares, anyway? So what if you can never get “definitely” to come out right on the first try?

It does matter, though. Spelling correctly is crucial to being taken seriously in countless aspects of your life, from getting ahead at work to communicating online.

Spelling Better Can Increase Your Income and More

Stefan, the founder of ADHD Boss, says, “I believe that good spelling and writing is one of the most effective skills that anyone in America can pick up through an ordinary high school education. I frequently tell people that just by attending high school in America, you automatically become a candidate for a six-figure career in copywriting, advertising, marketing, or any other niche that rewards excellent communication skills. Good spelling and writing will help you land an amazing job, earn more money, build better relationships, and so much more.

Your friends may not care if you get fast and loose with spelling in your texts or emails, but your boss sure will—and what about emailing customer service, applying for a business loan, writing to a potential book reviewer, or, heck, even just filling out a dating website profile?

In every case, good spelling can make the difference between making a great impression—and falling flat.

Dr. Andrew Selepak, a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in social media, gives a great example to his classes:

“I use the example of the power of knowing the right word by asking students if they would swipe left on someone on Tinder for using their, there, and they’re wrong, or two, to, and too wrong. This usually leads to a few laughs and then also agreements that such a mistake is cause for a swipe to the left.”

Imagine missing out on meeting your soul mate because you spelled a word wrong. That would suck, right?

Misspellings online can haunt you far beyond a fast tweet or misspelled hashtag. Dr. Selepak notes that President Trump has had trouble with spell-check-able glitches like “covfefe,” but also with using the wrong spelling for “heal” in some tweets.

In the end, spelling can make the difference between sounding like an expert and like you can’t be bothered to read what you’ve written.

You certainly don’t want to make the impression that you just can’t be bothered when you’re trying to advance your career! When you’re applying to a job, having a well-written cover letter and resume is essential…and all the tech tools in the world can’t help us strike the right tone when we’re doing important business writing.

Like it or not, people who spell words correctly are seen as more intelligent and get better opportunities in life.

As Christina Wood, media relations manager at GPS Trackit says, “Spelling and grammar should always be considered essentials. The key to building and retaining these skills should start with an increased emphasis on reading and expanding the media one consumes. As tools such spell check or Grammarly become more pervasive in our everyday lives, they should never be solely relied upon—especially in a business or a professional setting. Effective business communication relies on a mastery of written language combined with the proper tone that computer tools are not yet able to emulate.

She notes that, “Basically, strong literacy skills will positively impact an individual in both personal and professional endeavors and can also set them apart from their peers. This should be a skill that is routinely practiced and honed.

And, of course, good spelling is essential for a writer—how many times have you seen Amazon reviews of various books that point out glaring spelling errors or other grammatical glitches, then ding the author with a 1- or 2-star rating?

This is one negative review that you could have avoided if you just took the time to spell things correctly!

strategies to help you spell better

How Well Do You Spell?

How well do you really spell?

Take our free spelling quiz to find out.

Go ahead! We’ll wait.

So how’d you do? Not quite as well as you thought?

That’s okay—you’re in the right place!

By taking the time to learn some basic principles of English, understanding where words come from and how they’re constructed, and getting familiar with how spelling bee champions work their magic, you can avoid the potential embarrassment and hassle that comes from bad spelling.

Let’s start by looking at some of the most commonly misspelled words.

Commonly Misspelled Words

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are 171,476 words currently being used in the English language. Beyond that, there are 47,156 words that aren’t being used anymore. Oh, and there’s around 9,500 words that are derived from other “main” words but that may or may not be individual words on their own (is dog-tired its own word, or two words combined?).

So that means there’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 228,132 words in the English language.

That’s a quarter of a million words to know and spell!

Sheesh, no wonder getting it right can be so hard.

Thankfully, research has shown that the average adult only really uses about 20,000 words as part of their active vocabulary, and that the top 25–100 words make up almost 50% of our daily communication! We seem to only really need to know about 3,000 words to manage our daily lives.

So that’s a lot fewer words we need to know…and know how to spell right.

Which words are the hardest to spell correctly?

Check out this list of the top 100 most commonly misspelled words—it’s a great place to start your journey to better spelling!

Correct SpellingSpelling AdviceCommon Misspellings
accommodate, accommodationtwo cs, two msaccomodate, accomodation
achievei before eacheive
acrossone caccross
aggressive, aggressiontwo gsagressive, agression
apparently-ent not -antapparantly
appearanceends with -anceappearence
argumentno e after the uarguement
assassinationtwo double s’sassasination
basicallyends with -allybasicly
beginningdouble n before the -ingbegining
believei before ebeleive, belive
bizarreone z, double -rbizzare
businessbegins with busi-buisness
calendar-ar not -ercalender
Caribbeanone r, two bsCarribean
cemeteryends with -erycemetary
chauffeurends with -eurchauffer
colleague-ea- in the middlecollegue
comingone mcomming
committeedouble m, double t, double ecommitee
completelyends with -elycompletly
conscious-sc- in the middleconcious
curiosity-os- in the middlecuriousity
definitely-ite- not –ate-definately
dilemma-mm- not -mn-dilemna
disappearone s, two psdissapear
disappointone s, two psdissapoint
ecstasyends with –syecstacy
embarrasstwo rs, two s’sembarass
environmentn before the menviroment
existenceends with -enceexistance
Fahrenheitbegins with Fahr-Farenheit
familiarends with -iarfamilar
finallytwo lsfinaly
fluorescentbegins with fluor-florescent
foreigne before iforiegn
foreseeablebegins with fore-forseeable
fortybegins with for-fourty
forwardbegins with for-foward
friendi before efreind
furtherbegins with fur-futher
gistbegins with g-jist
glamorous-mor- in the middleglamourous
governmentn before the mgoverment
guardbegins with gua-gaurd
happenedends with -enedhappend
harass, harassmentone r, two s’sharrass, harrassment
honorary-nor- in the middlehonourary
humorous-mor- in the middlehumourous
idiosyncrasyends with -asyidiosyncracy
immediatelyends with -elyimmediatly
incidentallyends with -allyincidently
independentends with -entindependant
interrupttwo rsinterupt
irresistibleends with -ibleirresistable
knowledgeremember the dknowlege
liaise, liaisonremember the second i: liais-liase, liason
lollipopi in the middlelollypop
millennium, millenniadouble l, double nmillenium, millenia
Neanderthalends with -thalNeandertal
necessaryone c, two s’sneccessary
noticeableremember the middle enoticable
occasiontwo cs, one socassion, occassion
occurred, occurringtwo cs, two rsoccured, occuring
occurrencetwo cs, two rs, -ence not -anceoccurance, occurence
pavilionone lpavillion
persistentends with -entpersistant
pharaohends with -aohpharoah
piecei before epeice
politicianends with -cianpolitican
Portugueseends with –guesePortugese
possessiontwo s’s in the middle and two at the endposession
preferred, preferringtwo rsprefered, prefering
propagandabegins with propa-propoganda
publiclyends with –clypublically
reallytwo lsrealy
receivee before irecieve
referred, referringtwo rsrefered, refering
religiousends with -giousreligous
remember-mem- in the middlerember, remeber
resistanceends with -anceresistence
senseends with -sesence
separate-par- in the middleseperate
siegei before eseige
successfultwo cs, two s’ssuccesful
supersedeends with -sedesupercede
surprisebegins with sur-suprise
tattootwo ts, two ostatoo
tendencyends with -encytendancy
thereforeends with -foretherefor
thresholdone h in the middlethreshhold
tomorrowone m, two rstommorow, tommorrow
tonguebegins with ton-, ends with -guetounge
trulyno etruely
unforeseenremember the e after the runforseen
unfortunatelyends with -elyunfortunatly
untilone l at the enduntill
weirde before iwierd
whereverone e in the middlewhereever
whichbegins with wh-wich

Once you’ve figured out which words you struggle with the most, you can start to understand what’s tripping you up and learn how to spell every word better.

Let’s find out how the best spellers in the world do it.

The 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee competition and how to spell like a champion

Spelling Tips from Spelling Bee Champions

While most of us only use a few thousand words in our everyday lives, champion spellers can spell tens of thousands of weird words perfectly.

Most of us have heard of spelling bees, contests where people compete to see who can spell the most words perfectly on stage, under pressure. If you screw up, you’re out.

The words get progressively harder the longer the competition goes on—you might start with “dog,” move to “difficult,” go to “dilemma,” and end up with “dichotomy”…and that would be an easy round!

Spelling bee contestants do have an advantage—they get a list of words that might potentially be asked during the competition, so their task is a combination of rote memorization (learning a word and its spelling by heart) and understanding the principles that govern how a word is assembled from different linguistic pieces.

Think that sounds simple? After all, how hard can memorizing a list of words really be?

Think again—just check out this list of the winning word from every National Spelling Bee since 1925 to see how tough a challenge it really is.

Most spelling bee champs use a combination of flashcards, patterns, and memorization techniques to study.

Flashcards

Some national spelling champions really go the extra mile. For instance, Snigdha Nandipati, the 2012 National Spelling Bee winner, studied with 30,000 flashcards of the trickiest words she could find.

For most of us, though, we don’t need to study quite that much!

Instead, create a list of the 10–25 hardest words for you, personally, to spell and write them on index cards. In spare moments, write down the word, then pull out the index card and check it.

You can also use flashcards to help you go over the words when you’re first learning them. Take out the flashcard, look at the word, say it out loud, then close your eyes, spell the word out loud, and check it against the card.

Understanding Spelling Patterns

Most words follow certain patterns. While it seems like there’s a billion different ways to spell a word with a buzzing sound in it, there’s really only a few: with a Z (buzz), with a hard S (busy), or with an X (Xerox).

Spelling champs learn how to pronounce every single word they want to spell so that they can memorize the ways those sounds fit together.

This is sort of like using the phonetic method of spelling instruction—where you learn how something is said to figure out how it’s written—but it also involves searching for patterns.

If you ever used the old rule “I before E except after C,” then you’re used to searching for spelling and sound patterns already!

Want to learn more about common sounds and their spelling patterns? Check out this handy PDF.

Memorization Techniques

There are dozens of different ways to memorize more information.

We’ve already talked about how you can improve your memory by using the body method where you assign different words or spellings to, say, your knees or your fingers to help create a mental link between the right spelling and the place.

You can create a funny sketch or doodle that ties in to the correct spelling, giving yourself a visual way to remember the word.

Or you might just practice writing the word over and over until the correct spelling becomes part of your muscle memory. Then, when you need to type or say the word, you can move your hand and have the letters come to mind.

In fact, many spelling bee champs pretend to write the word on their hand to get it right, while others type in thin air to remember the letters.

You can learn even more techniques with Unlimited Memory, an International Memory Grandmaster’s secrets to unlocking your mind’s potential to remember more, faster, and better.

How to Spell Better

No matter what technique you use—flashcards, doodles, handwriting, a Memory Palace, or more—the key to spelling better is to practice!

Spelling bee champions often study their word lists for 3 to 4 hours per day every single day, and 6–10 hours daily in the run-up to a competition—as long as a full-time job would take! And that’s in addition to attending school like other kids.

You may not be setting out to conquer words like “chiaroscurist” and “pococurante,” but even when you’re just trying to figure out how many Es are in “unforeseen,” practice makes perfect.

The more you say, write, type, or study a word, the more familiar it will become, and the easier it’ll be for you to spell it right next time!

If that feels too much like being back in school, make it fun!

Play Scrabble or Words with Friends, break out the Boggle, or just do some crosswords or word search puzzles—any game that asks you to create words from letters will help improve your spelling without feeling like work!

how to recognize and use root words

How to Recognize and Use Root Words

Knowing where a word comes from can sometimes be key to helping you spell it correctly. That’s one reason why spelling champs are allowed to ask what language a word originally came from—it can help them identify the root words that make it up.

According to Janet Heller, an award-winning editor and author who taught English literature for 35 years, “People spell better when they learn word roots and the prefixes and suffixes that we can add to words to create related words. Linguists call such components of words with meaning morphemes. For example, the word invigorate has three morphemes: the root vigor, the prefix in-, and the suffix -ate.

We can learn a lot of these by studying word lists, but Janet notes that “Taking foreign languages like Spanish, French, Latin, German, etc. can also help people to understand word roots.

While spelling bee champs need to know lots of vocabulary that comes from dozens of different languages, including German, French, Yiddish, and even Hawai’ian, most of us can get away with learning about root words that come from two contributing languages: Greek and Latin.

That’s because a lot of English is made up of words that trace their origin to these two “dead” languages.

Often, when a new word is created, it uses a root word from Latin or Greek to piece the new word together. Root words are kind of like “mini words” that can be assembled like building blocks to create a new term.

Look at “telephone,” “headphone,” and “homophone.” All have the word “phone” in them, which comes from the Greek word “phonos,” meaning sound.

So you know that all these words have something to do with sounds, and that they’ll always be spelled with “p-h-o-n-e.”’

Meanwhile, “tele” comes from the Greek for “distance,” so words with that root will always have something to do with distance. Telephone, television, telegraph…they’re all devices for transmitting something over a distance (sound, picture, and writing)!

Root words are super-helpful for figuring out both what a word means and how it’s spelled.

For instance, if you’re reading an article and come across the term “archaeozoology,” you can break it down into its parts.

Archaeo comes from the Greek for “old,” while zoo relates to the Greek term for animals. –ology means “the study of something.”

Add them up and you find out that “archaeozoology” means “the study of ancient animals or their remains.”

There are lots of common root words that come from both Latin and Greek. Here’s some lists of the most popular:

Latin RootDefinitionExamples
ambibothambiguous, ambidextrous
aquawateraquarium, aquamarine
audto hearaudience, audition
benegoodbenefactor, benevolent
centone hundredcentury, percent
circumaroundcircumference, circumstance
contra/counteragainstcontradict, encounter
dictto saydictation, dictator
duc/ductto leadconduct, induce
facto do; to makefactory, manufacture
formshapeconform, reform
fortstrengthfortitude, fortress
fractto breakfracture, fraction
jectthrowprojection, rejection
judjudgejudicial, prejudice
malbadmalevolent, malefactor
matermothermaterial, maternity
mitto sendtransmit, admit
mortdeathmortal, mortician
multimanymultimedia, multiple
paterfatherpaternal, paternity
portto carryportable, transportation
ruptto breakbankrupt, disruption
scrib/scribeto writeinscription, prescribe
sect/secto cutbisect, section
sentto feel; to sendconsent, resent
spectto lookinspection, spectator
structto builddestruction, restructure
vid/visto seevideo, televise
vocvoice; to callvocalize, advocate
Greek RootDefinitionExamples
anthropoman; human; humanityanthropologist, philanthropy
autoselfautobiography, automobile
biolifebiology, biography
chrontimechronological, chronic
dynapowerdynamic, dynamite
dysbad; hard; unluckydysfunctional, dyslexic
gramthing writtenepigram, telegram
graphwritinggraphic, phonograph
heterodifferentheteronym, heterogeneous
homosamehomonym, homogenous
hydrwaterhydration, dehydrate
hypobelow; beneathhypothermia, hypothetical
logystudy ofbiology, psychology
meter/metrmeasurethermometer, perimeter
microsmallmicrobe, microscope
mis/misohatemisanthrope, misogyny
monoonemonologue, monotonous
morphform; shapemorphology, morphing
nymnameantonym, synonym
phillovephilanthropist, philosophy
phobiafearclaustrophobia, phobic
phonsoundphone, symphony
photo/phoslightphotograph, phosphorous
pseudoFALSEpseudonym, pseudoscience
psychosoul; spiritpsychology, psychic
scopeviewing instrumentmicroscope, telescope
technoart; science; skilltechnique, technological
telefar offtelevision, telephone
thermheatthermal, thermometer

For even more root words, check out this super-detailed list.

Prefixes and Suffixes

Often, root words have prefixes or suffixes added—these come at the beginning or end of other words to modify their meaning. For instance, “pre-“ is a prefix that means “before”. So now we know what “prefix” itself means: it’s something that’s attached (fixed) in front of something else!

By understanding root words and the affix modifiers that change them up, you’ll be able to quickly recognize and decipher many words—and you’ll understand how to spell them, too!

Here’s some lists of the most common prefixes and suffixes, thanks to Reading Rocket:

PrefixDefinitionExamples
anti-againstanticlimax
de-oppositedevalue
dis-not; opposite ofdiscover
en-, em-cause toenact, empower
fore-before; front offoreshadow, forearm
in-, im-inincome, impulse
in-, im-, il-, ir-notindirect, immoral, illiterate, irreverent
inter-between; amonginterrupt
mid-middlemidfield
mis-wronglymisspell
non-notnonviolent
over-over; too muchovereat
pre-beforepreview
re-againrewrite
semi-half; partly; not fullysemifinal
sub-undersubway
super-above; beyondsuperhuman
trans-acrosstransmit
un-not; opposite ofunusual
under-under; too littleunderestimate
SuffixDefinitionExamples
-able, -ibleis; can beaffordable, sensible
-al, -ialhaving characteristics ofuniversal, facial
-edpast tense verbs; adjectivesthe dog walked,
the walked dog
-enmade ofgolden
-er, -orone who;
person connected with
teacher, professor
-ermoretaller
-estthe mosttallest
-fulfull ofhelpful
-ichaving characteristics ofpoetic
-ingverb forms;
present participles
sleeping
-ion, -tion, -ation,
-tion
act; processsubmission, motion,
relation, edition
-ity, -tystate ofactivity, society
-ive, -ative,
-itive
adjective form of nounactive, comparative,
sensitive
-lesswithouthopeless
-lyhow something islovely
-mentstate of being; act ofcontentment
-nessstate of; condition ofopenness
-ous, -eous, -ioushaving qualities ofriotous, courageous,
gracious
-s, -esmore than onetrains, trenches
-ycharacterized bygloomy

Suffix Rules

How do you add suffixes to words and still spell them right?

There’s rules for that!

Vowels and Es

If you’re trying to add a suffix that begins with a vowel (like –able or –ous) to a word that ends in a silent E, drop that E.

For instance, “desire” ends with an E, but “desirable” drops that middle E.

Other examples include response > responsible and argue > arguing

Exception: If the word ends in a double E, keep the final E:

agree > agreeable, flee > fleeing

Ys and Is

If you’re adding a suffix to a word that ends in Y, change the Y to an I.

For instance:

happy > happier, body > bodily

Exception: Don’t stack two Is together.

carry > carrying (not carriing)

Doubling Consonants

For the most part, you don’t want to double up the final consonant of a word when you’re adding a suffix.

There are a few exceptions, though:

  • The final consonant comes after a single vowel, not a pair of vowels:
    • bar > barred but fail > failed
  • The word has one syllable or stresses the last syllable
    • fit > fitted, prefer > preferred

There are always exceptions to any pattern or rule, especially when dealing with something as tricky as language, but these basic rules will help you spell better every time you use a suffix!

spellcheck and tools to spell better

Tools for Spelling Better

Learning to recognize word roots and spell better takes time and practice. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools that can help you spell better right now, while you’re working on it!

Built-In Tools

Word, Pages, and most other word processors have a built-in grammar and spelling checker feature.

It’s pretty good, and it’ll let you know when you’ve typed something wrong. However, if you accidentally type “visit” instead of “vista,” it won’t know the difference. That’s where improved services come in handy.

You can also turn on the “autocorrect” function in your smartphone to help you compose better messages on the go—although there’s the danger that it’ll change your correctly spelled, intended word into something completely different. Always be sure to read things through before you click Send!

Grammarly

Grammarly is an awesome upgrade to the built-in spell check that you might be used to.

Instead of being limited to a word processor, Grammarly follows you all over the web—you can add its plug-in to your browser to ensure that you’re writing clear, accurate messages no matter where you go.

It’s more sensitive to context and nuance than standard built-in checkers, too, so it’ll know if you spelled a word right, but used it in the wrong way…or if you need to add hyphens to make something make sense.

Best of all, it helps you learn from your mistakes and improve your writing skills by giving you detailed feedback, explanation, and even weekly progress reports on your writing!

Whether you do a lot of business emails or you’re a professional writer, Grammarly is indispensable for ensuring that you’re always putting your best foot forward in writing.

If you upgrade to the monthly subscription premium version, you can also get Grammarly’s help within Microsoft applications and can even do plagiarism checking or use custom templates for certain kinds of writing.

Ginger

Ginger is another “writing enhancement” app similar to Grammarly.

It’ll check your writing for misspelled and misused words, make suggestions, offer tips, and more.

It also helps you learn new vocabulary and expand your writing skills!

For writers, it has a particularly handy feature: it’ll help you rephrase complicated or hard-to-follow sentences, get rid of sentence fragments, and generally improve the quality of your writing.

Ginger acts almost like a freelance proofreader, helping you find tense and pluralization errors in addition to simple spelling goofs.

You can download a browser extension or a standalone app for Windows, iPhone, or Android. Some features are free, but you may want to upgrade to the monthly subscription plan for all the premium proofreading features.

WhiteSmoke

WhiteSmoke is another tool that acts like an automated proofreader. It’ll check your spelling, grammar, usage, punctuation, and more—as well as running plagiarism checks and giving you helpful feedback on your writing.

It’s compatible with Microsoft Office and can be used as a browser extension on all the major browsers.

It even provides handy templates for common writing tasks, like business letters or memos!

Unlike Grammarly and Ginger, there’s no basic free version; you’ll need to choose a monthly or annual subscription based on where and how you want to use the tool (online vs. download, etc.)

Phonics Resources

If you want to help recognize where words come from and improve your speech-to-writing pattern recognition, consider getting hooked on phonics!

No, really—the study of phonics, or the sounds that make up words, can really improve your spelling power.

Try the Spaulding Program or visit Phonogram to get started.

Dictionaries

While tech tools are great, you really can’t beat the dictionary for improving your spelling.

Bookmark your favorite online—Merriam-Webster is the American standard, while Oxford is preferred elsewhere in the world—and consider picking up an actual physical copy for when you might be offline. You never know when you’ll need a spelling reference!

Besides, using a physical dictionary triggers different parts of your brain that may help you remember words and spellings more easily by engaging more of your senses.

Then again, the hassle of having to pull out that big, heavy book might also be a good learning tool. As Stefan, the founder of ADHD Boss, points out, “When it comes to learning how to spell better without having to rely on spell check, I force myself to look up words in a physical dictionary. Using a physical dictionary to look up the proper spelling of words is such an annoying task that it actually forces you to memorize how words are spelled. Try it for yourself, and I bet you’ll be surprised at how well it works!”

Other People

Our best tool for spelling better—and writing better in general—is other people!

Educator and author Janet Heller notes, “Individuals who have dyslexia and/or attention deficit disorder (ADD) will have an especially hard time with spelling. They should use spell-check and other tools to help them. Also, they may need another person who is a good speller to look over their work before they turn in a report or send out a message.”

But relying on another set of eyes isn’t just for people with neurological differences that can make spelling hard—everyone makes mistakes, and every writer needs a good proofreader!

(I’m a professional writer and editor and I still had someone proofread this article before I published it!)

Take Your Time

It seems that everyone is always in a hurry these days—and that might be one of the reasons we have such a hard time spelling properly.

Janet says, “In general, we need to stop rushing when we write. We need to take the time to carefully proofread what we have typed or hand-written. Anyone can make accidental errors, but we can fix these mistakes if we proofread. I especially recommend proofreading aloud and backwards, sentence by sentence, to find mistakes.

Anytime you write something important, whether it’s a short email, a Tweet, a dating profile, a memo for work, or a business document, make sure you take the time to double-check what you wrote. You won’t catch spelling mistakes when you write them—you’ll see them when you proofread your work. It only takes a few seconds to look over your work, but those few seconds could make all the difference for you.

It takes time and effort to learn to spell properly, but with some practice and a few basic strategies, you can go from struggling speller to champ—and impress everyone who reads your writing.

And that’s the real prize!

 

For more ways to improve your communication skills, read on:

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