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Hard Words to Spell in English, and How to Remember Them

Ahh, the English language — so full of hard words to spell! Allow this artistic, experienced English teacher to guide you through a growing list of commonly misspelled words — with fun tricks to remember each correct spelling, illustrated by hand-drawn cartoons…

What Makes a Word Hard to Spell?

Let’s start by giving an answer to what makes certain words so difficult to spell. First, some English words are tough to remember because the vowels are hard to sound out, such as with the word “separate.” Others are confusing because they’re similar — but not identical — in sound and spelling to other words, as with “desert vs. dessert” and “later vs. latter.”

Other spellings are hard because it’s challenging to decide whether (not “weither“) they’re written as one word or two, as with “workout.” Still others are tricky because they are homophones: two words that sound the same, but are spelled differently, and mean different things, like “awe or aww.”

Hard words to spell
Hard words to spell, illustrated!

Hard Words for Which Age?

When people think of the hardest words to spell in English, their minds often go straight to the longest word in the dictionary, “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” (meaning a type of lung disease caused by breathing in tiny particles of silicate or quartz dust) or “antidisestablishmentarianism” — but the reality is that those words are so rarely used that it’s not really even worth learning to spell them.

No — in fact the REAL hardest words to spell in English are the short but tricky ones like “friend” (versus “freind“)! Hint: the last word on this list is just three letters, but stumps the most experienced English spellers out there.

Given this, who is this list of frequently misspelled words for? Well, I could entitle this article “hard words for 1st graders to spell” or “hard words to spell for 12th graders” or even “challenging words to spell for adults” — but the reality is that ALL ages get mixed up by these hard to spell words. Want to see what I mean? Let’s dive in!

Hard Words to Spell in English

This growing list helps teach ways to remember common hard words to spell in English, even when they're difficult or confusing. Fun hand-drawn cartoon illustrations help learn!

One Word or Two?

The next set of commonly misspelled words is confusing due to deciding whether to put a space in the middle to form two words, or leave it out to keep it as one word. Sometimes both forms exist, and sometimes only one does. Let's examine them...

Misspelled Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings. This can cause a number of writing problems, when you're trying to decide whether to type one or the other.

Which Words are Hardest to Spell for YOU?

Which of these hard words to spell in English is most confusing for you to remember? I hope the memory ideas provided in each linked lesson above help to recall correct spelling the next time you’re writing or typing these tricksters.

I’m always adding to this list, so if there’s a word that’s not included here that you’d like me to illustrate, just leave a comment or send a message, and I’ll get to it. I’m also adding to my list of commonly misspelled words, which is a sub-set of this compilation. Happy spelling!