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Common spelling errors

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So, you're a bad speller or your child is a bad speller? Here's a fresh insight into the problem and a simple but proven learning method for quickly becoming a better speller.

English spelling is a potential minefield for children, adult learners and second language learners because so many words are not spelled the way they sound. Furthermore, there are so many spelling rules and exceptions to confuse you, that it is impossible to remember them all.

Spelling errors are very common in the English language. Everyone has one or more words that they usually misspell. Poor spellers have many such words. You may discover some of your own spelling errors in the list of commonly misspelled words below. There are many other lists of frequently misspelled words and common spelling errors on the Internet, along with simplified spelling movements, all reflecting the enormous difficulty adults and children have with English spelling.

We all have our own way of spelling words. Mostly, our spelling agrees with the generally accepted spelling as found in a good dictionary.

But sometimes our spelling is different from the norm. We call these "alternative spellings", "creative spellings", "misspellings", "spelling errors", "poor spelling", or just "bad spelling". Whatever you call it, we all know it's still wrong.

Being a poor speller is a real handicap at school, at work, and in life generally. Because poor spelling and reading problems tend to go together, being unable to spell can slow down your learning progress right throughout school and later in life. If you get branded as a "slow learner" because your spelling is so poor, that's even worse for your self confidence and self esteem.

We learn spelling the same way as anything else, namely by repetition and practice. Whatever you practice you will learn. If you practice the right spelling from the start, then that's what you will learn. No problem.

However, every now and then you make an error with spelling. Errors happen. If a spelling error is allowed to go on undetected and uncorrected long enough, it soon becomes a habit and is then much harder to correct. What you have inadvertently practiced and learned is how to spell it wrongly. You now have what is called a learned error or habit error. Big problem.

You may have noticed that children and adults tend to misspell a word in the same wrong way each time, e.g., they always write "seperate." If a spelling error is this consistent, then it's a learned error.

You will also have discovered from bitter experience that pointing out the error to the learner, or to yourself, and having the learner, or you, write the correct spelling 20 times or so, does not work. It's still wrong the next day, the next week, next month! That's because learned errors, like all bad habits, die hard.

Forgetting what you've learned and falling back to old spelling habits is actually very common. Psychologists and educators call this the transfer of learning problem. Conventional teaching methods cannot deal with errors that are learned, habitual and automatic, and that's why the old ways resurface despite our best efforts. We need a better way.

Remedial teaching methods don't work too well either, or if they do work it takes a very long time to bring about any improvement. Again, old habits die hard.

Almost all methods for learning spelling and correcting spelling errors rely on practice. Although practice, i.e., repetition, is a great way to learn new words, it is much less effective when trying to unlearn established spelling habits. You see, you first need to unlearn the old spelling habit, before you can learn the new, correct spelling. You can't just practice a new spelling over the top of an old, incorrect spelling habit, and hope that the old habit will go away. Unfortunately, conventional, i.e., currently available, methods of learning spelling are not very good at this crucial step of habit unlearning.

If you're an adult your spelling problem probably has a long history. You've had plenty of time to inadvertently develop bad spelling habits. If you're a child you already know you're a poor speller but you can't do much about it no matter how hard you try.

You may even have been tested by some specialist who told you that you have a learning disability, e.g., you are dyslexic, or a slow learner, or whatever. You now have a name for the problem and this might make you feel a little better, but you still don't have a solution. You still can't spell.

The good news is that most poor spellers do not have a learning disability. They simply have a learned disability, i.e., they have many learned errors that resist correction by conventional teaching and learning methods. These learned errors, like all bad habits, get in the way of learning how to spell, and act as a learning block and a real barrier to progress.

Most spelling problems are a matter of learning - for one reason or another you initially learned how to do it "wrong". You're consistent in your error, and consistency is a sign of learning ability, so that shows you can learn. The problem, then, is not with your ability to learn, it's with the learning method that you're using. Find the right learning method for you, and you will start to improve. Now you're no longer part of the problem; you're part of the solution.

What you need is an effective learning program for correcting those habitual, persistent spelling errors quickly and permanently. Such a program has now been developed in Australia and it is called Old Way/New Way®.

Spelling success—A proven learning method for improving spelling

Old Way/New Way® is officially endorsed and gazetted by the South Australian Department of Education, Training and Employment. To be so recognised it first had to prove itself in university research experiments and in trials in schools, workplaces and with adult learners.

Old Way/New Way® works when all other methods have failed. It is an "intelligent fix", not a quick fix, and although you still have to put in the learning effort, you will see rewards more quickly. Above all, with Old Way/New Way® you remember what you've learned, so there is no forgetting and falling back to old ways and bad spelling habits.

Old Way/New Way® is a generic learning method that is equally effective with adult learners, school-age children, and second language learners.

Personal Best Spelling™ for adults and children is the only spelling software licensed to use Old Way/New Way®. Personal Best Spelling™ also uses another proven learning method called Look-Say-Cover-Write-Check, but an improved version of it that makes it even more effective for learning new words. Finally, Personal Best Spelling™ also tests how well you've learned and remembered the words you've already learned.

Developed by Australian teachers and educational psychologists, Personal Best Spelling™ is easy to learn and use. The computer does it all for you - it's like having your own personal learning coach sitting right alongside you.

The program makes use of these fundamental learning principles to help adults and children change over to new, correct, spelling habits:

  • start with what the learned already knows and respect that knowledge, even if it's incorrect
  • show the learner the correct way and systematically compare that with his or her own way
  • make the learner aware of what he or she is doing that is different from what he or she should be doing
  • then provide practice or drill in the correct way.

Personal Best Spelling™ is not a computer game dressed up as educational software. It is, first and foremost, a learning tool that improves learning. Too many computer games that claim to be "educational" are little more than games. Their goal is "entertainment first" and instruction and real learning often come a poor second. Personal Best Spelling™ uses interesting sound and visuals to help motivate and reinforce learners but never to the point where this becomes distracting or an end in itself.

In the best educational tradition, Personal Best Spelling™ is a genuine learning tool that will help improve your spelling.

Spelling errors—Frequently misspelled words in the English language

accidently accomodation absorsption accordian
acommodation accomodation acount acquaintence activites administation agression agressive aniversary aquisitions arangements archaelogy Artic artiffical asembly asessment asociation assasination assocation aquaintance arguement awhile
barbeque believeable bibiography bibligraphy bibliogaphy bibliogrpahy bibliogrphy biblography bicentenial Buddist Budhism busines
caffein cemetary cemetries cemetry centenial challange coexistance colection colections collectable colloquim comission comissioners commentry commision commitee committment competancy comtemporary consistancy contempory corespondence
Dalmation definantly definate depresion depresive developement dictionaires dictonaries drunkeness
editied editon eigth emmigration enviromental excercise existance
facilites facsimilies flabberghast foriegn
geneological genious goverment goverments governement Great Britan
hankerchief happines harrass historial houshold hundreth
inadvertant incidently indispensible industial infinitly infomation ingenius innoculate insitute intensional internatonal introducion introducton introdution irresistable
langauge lanscape leukaemia lieutanant literture liquify Lousiana
maintainance mangement marshmellow Massachusets measurment medival mentaly microfrom millenium millionare minatures miniscule miscelaneous miscellanous mischeif
mischievious Misissippi Misouri mispell Mississipi momento musuem
Napolean ninteenth
occassion offical opportunites opra oprations orcherstra orchesta orginal
pamplet pamplets pantomine pasttime Pennyslvania Pensylvania persistance persistant persue pharoah Philadephia Philipines Philippins philosopy philosphical philosphy pidgeon pistacchio plentitude poeple politcal politican populaton posessions possiblities pratical pratice preceedings presidental prespective presumptious priviledge proceedures processess pronounciation psychosoomatic psyciatrists psycological psycology
reacter recieve recomendation recomendations reconnaisance refridgerator relgion religon religous rememberance reminisences Reinsance Renaisance Renassiance Rennaissance reponses reponsibility reseach reserch residental resouces resplendant resurection retirment revalations revolutionry
sensable seperation septagenarian seventeeth severly sieze sorceror sponcer stastistics statisitics statisticcal strenghten strenghts strenthening strugle sucess suggestins supercede
suplement suplemental supplmentary supression surpised surprizing suvive
techers televison temperment tempermental tendancies Tenessee Tennesee Tennesse teritory tommorrow topolgy traditon traditonal tranmission tranport tranportation transistion transiton transparancies transporation transportaton transribed treatiese twelth
ukelele uncertainity univeristy universety univesity unsrer untill
varities Vigina vison
withdrawl worldy worthwil

Spellings of saucer by 967 ten-year-old English children (total number 988*)#

saucer (462)

sauser (67) sorser (23) suacer (23) sacer (20) sorcer (18) soser soucer (11) sucer suser (10) sawser (9) sarser sacar (8) sauce scaucer (7) souser sauer sause (6) caucer sawer socer sorer (5) surcer surser scauer saser saurcer saurser scarcer (4) suscer suarcer sausar cacer sauccer sarsar saursar scar scare scaser scorer sercer eseer soer sora sorsa sos sose (3) sosr suar sus susar suse carser causer chocer cor corroce corser (2) curser eswas sacar sacca saccar sacerer sacir sacuere sacuers saer saeucng sancer saose sarce sarear sare saresir sari sarig saroer sarry sarses sarter sary sascaue sasger sasere sasher satard saucere saucor saucing saucher saucter saue saues saught saura saurse saus sauscer sausery sausir sausue sausur savcr sawers sawur sayser seacar scace searces scarsere scarser scaser scasur scauser scocer scoors scorceri scoser scoua scoucel scoue scour scouse scuace scuarcer sciccer scare scuser senrd serner sem ses sesaur sharser shasers shose shower shure sice sinder sined slart sloy smory soc socp splorns soolle sooser sooucer sor sore sorcr sororr sors sorsar sorscur sorb sorur sorus sosa sosed sosar sosiar sosiar sosre sou sourcer sourses sout sowew space spienace sres slous suace suarser suaser sucar succer sucase suce sucger suecher sueer sucur sud suger suier sumser suorser surage surce surer sureer sursar sursur surts susare susas sues (1)

*Omitted by 21.

# Source: M.L. Peters (1985), Spelling Caught or Taught? Routledge, p.19.

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