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 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 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! 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!
The word "Answer" is hard to spell because of its silent "W" in the middle, and the hard-to-guess vowel that comes before the "R," due to its pronunciation. See the cartoons I drew in the link below for two funny ways to remember how to write this word.
"Clothes" are the articles of clothing you put on your body, while "cloths" are pieces of fabric. With all the frequently misspelled words on this list, you can click the "Continue Reading" button to get the full lesson and article.
"Color" is the U.S. English version, while "colour" is British, and used in all places where British English is spoken (from Canada to India). Learn the wild story about the origin of this difference here...
The cave spikes "stalactites" (growing down from the ceiling) and "stalagmites" (growing up from the ground) are frequently mixed up. Learn a way to remember the difference.
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...
"Everyday" is an adjective describing something that's used daily, while "every day" explains the frequency something is done. This is easier to understand with the examples and drawings at this link, so click below....
The short words "it's" and "your" and "there" may seem easy, but in fact they're some of the most frequently misspelled words in the English language, and thus some of the most difficult! These cartoon illustrations will help teach the difference.
Here is the full list of all the homophone lessons I've illustrated, including "Whose vs. Who's" and "Passed vs. Past." They are some of the most frequently misspelled words out there, for all ages!
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. Happy spelling!
The author and artist, Lillie Marshall, is a National Board Certified Teacher of English who has been a public school educator since 2003, and an experienced Reiki practitioner since 2018. All art on this site is original and hand-drawn by Lillie. She launched DrawingsOf.com Educational Cartoons in 2020, building upon the success of her other two sites, AroundTheWorldL.com (established 2009) and TeachingTraveling.com (founded 2010). Subscribe to Lillie’s monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media to stay connected!
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