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Spelling Right and Wrong

Spelling Tips from Students and others

Middlesex University students and others share ideas to help with spelling.
Check Carefully Classes Concentrate Computer Spell-checkers Contributors Crosswords Dictionary Enjoy it Friendly Proof Readers Group words Lists of Tips Look at it Mistakes New Words Personalised Methods Proof Read Reading Rhymes Say it Stick it Thesaurus Write it

I would advise people who are not confident in their spelling to:

  1. always work with a dictionary
  2. always proof read work before a spell check
  3. then carry out a spell check
  4. then print out your work and proof read again
  5. carry out another spell check
  6. you can then correct outstanding spelling mistakes by marking them on the print out before spell checking again as sometimes spelling errors are not picked up by the computer
  7. finally, proof read on screen making necessary corrections before printing out the final product.

Being a Dyslectic student I find spelling extremely difficult

My tips are:

    Produce your own dictionary. Doing an academic course you are faced with new words all the time, which are sometimes long and complicated to spell or read.

    Having your own dictionary makes it easier to look up words you can not spell as some letters in words are difficult to pronounce, making it difficult to find them in large dictionaries.

    Some text books have a glossary section at the back of the chapter or book to help you familiarise yourself with the different terminologies

    Having a list of words you have problems with helps you to go over them and learn them.

    With the word you have problems spelling, learn to spell it in your own way. For example, breaking up the word in the way it is pronounced is a useful was of learning how to spell.

    For example: BUS IN ESS, LIB R ARY, LIT HI UM.

    Having your own dictionary makes it easier to look up words. Looking up words that may have the same pronunciation can make it difficult to look up in a normal dictionary.

    Use an electronic spell checker with Thesaurus. These can be purchased cheaply and are pocket sized to carry around. Some of these electronic spell checkers also have dictionary definitions included.

    You can use the computer spell checker, which can be used to check typing errors.

    Knowing the meaning of words sometimes helps you to remember how to spell them.

    Extra tutorials may help you learn new techniques to assist you in your academic studies.

    Have your work checked over for spelling errors.

Check Carefully

Take time to think how the word is spelt. If you are not sure of the word, or do not know what it means, look it up in a dictionary and write the definition down.

My spelling is poor until I either use a dictionary to check the words, or use a computer spellcheck. It is necessary to take time and care with spellings. Check and re-check, even if it seems tedious.

Many mistakes are made through not paying enough attention - not because you do not know how to spell the word.

When you are writing, you should always slowly check what you have written after each sentence.

I think my spelling is very good, but what I gain in the spelling I lose in the typing. The only advice I can give to poor spellers is to check and recheck.I spend hours checking my typing errors and however many times I look I still find more.

Proof reading is reading a text to check for any mistakes that need to be corrected

Get into the habit of proof reading your work as often and as many times as possible. That way you are more likely to spot your mistakes.

One student says:

"I would say my spelling is good. I always proof read whilst I am going along and when I have finished at least twice, my advice is what you do not see the first time round you are bound to see next time."

Another says:

"Sometimes my spelling mistakes come from typing too fast. I have to read my work again and again, because and I miss the mistakes constantly. This is where the spell checker is useful, because it highlights words that could be wrong."

Friendly Proof Readers

After finishing a piece of work you should always check and read it through. You could give it to others to read it too, and ask them to show you where you made mistakes and how to correct them.

Do not be afraid to ask people around you how to spell words.

Get your friends to proof read your work.


I spend a lot of time, when I am bored, browsing through a dictionary.

Do not give up trying to spell. It takes time sometimes and it needs practising and regular reference to the dictionary.

Always carry a dictionary. You can buy very good small pocket dictionaries. There are also dictionaries especially to help with spelling.

The only way I have ever found to improve my spelling is to keep looking up words I am not sure of until it finally sinks in.


My spelling is poor. Thank God for spell check!

Some spell-checkers are set to the American spell check. You can alter this to United Kingdom English.

If unsure of a word while spell checking, use the computer thesaurus to check the meaning.

I use the spell check on the computer and often consult a dictionary.

My spelling is quite good, but I like to use the spell check to double check that all my spelling is correct. I also use a thesaurus to change some of my wording.

I usually work with a dictionary by my side and more recently I use the spell checker - But I sometimes believe this does not help to improve spelling.

When the spell check highlights a mis-spelt word, do not just correct it. Write it down on a sheet of paper. If you do this every time you soon pick up the spelling.

Look at the words you find difficult to spell

If I come across words that I find difficult to spell, I try to concentrate on them a bit more when reading them, or write them out a few times so I get used to them.

Get the words you find very hard to spell from the dictionary, look at them, close the book and write them over and over again, cross check with the correct spelling, eventually they will stick to your brain.

Write down the words, stick them to the wall and, everytime you see the words, repeat them to yourself.

When I come across new words, as I have in social sciences, I usually write the words in a note book or glossary so I can keep referring to them until I have learnt how to spell them correctly.

Do not forget to use a spell check before you submit any work. But also read your work through for mistakes. You will probably find mistakes by reading that the spell check misses.

Learn that if you have not spelt a word right, you should correct it and remember the spelling for the next time you use the word.

Reading improves spelling

Make good use of the dictionary, read different materials now and then, like newspapers, and always read through your work.

Read a lot of books and consult the dictionary.

Regular reading helps improve spelling. Your spelling should automatically improve the more books, articles, writing you read. Reading as much as possible means I can see if a word "looks" right.

My spelling is poor until spell checked, but the more I read the more I see how words are formed.

I think my spelling is good because I ENJOY reading a lot. I regularly attend the library and really love reading. I also read a newspaper regularly, but not a broadsheet as they are very boring. REMEMBER the emphasis is to enjoy. I think that if people do not enjoy reading they will never be in control of their written skills, not to the potential they would like anyway. Reading is the key to good spelling.

My spelling has improved since I started reading novels and newspapers, and listening to the news. When I read or hear difficult words, I look them up in the dictionary.

When reading, highlight words which you are unsure of, and keep a note of their correct spelling and meaning.

I sometimes surprise myself by spelling certain words correctly. More often I find that I miss out a lot of important letters. The only way that I feel spelling can be improved is by reading. Words I do not the meaning of, I look up in the dictionary, and this helps me to remember how to spell them.

Say it out loud

Saying the word out loud so you hear what it sounds like is a good way of improving spelling.

Pronouncing the word in your head before writing or typing it gives you an idea how the word is spelt.

Try to pronounce the word and break it up.

I often listen to the
syllables to help me spell.

Make a rhyme

There are two tips about spelling which were taught to me by my mother and which I have now passed on to my daughter:

  1. Sound out the word before or even whilst writing it down.

  2. Use a rhyme or saying to help spell a word.

    For example: to spell the word because, a saying to remember is

    Big Elephants Cannot Always Use Small Exits.

    Take the first letter from each word (which spell because).

Try doing crosswords. It is surprising how much they can help.

As English is a second language to me, spelling was particularly difficult. However, I developed a system of grouping words that have similar letters. For example, should, would and could all have similar letters within them. By grouping them together I learnt to spell three words rather than learning one word at time.
"Studying has built up my self confidence. My spelling is very poor, but it got a lot better after doing English 'A' level."

"Language classes at Middlesex University are free for university students. They helped me with my grammar, spelling, and the presentation of my essays." [Many universities will have similar classes. Check yours out]

"My spelling has improved during my time at university. This could be due to the amount of reading I have had to do and the support given by the learning centre."

"Students whose spelling is poor should visit the Language Canter of the University. I would also advise these students to acquire as much experience as they can by reading and taking notes from what they read. This was something that I did during the first semester and indeed helped me very much to improve my spelling"

Learn from your mistakes. Keep lists of the words you misspell. Use the computer spell-check to highlight words and make a note. Make a special note of words you misspell that the computer spell-check misses.

By reading and thinking about the Spelling Right and Wrong file, you may also be able to learn from other people's mistakes.

My basic spelling is weak - So please tell me about spelling mistakes on this page, or anywhere on the website. They are not deliberate - Although I do sometimes choose unconventional alternatives to make my life easier. I chose the minority spelling civilisation instead of the usual civilization - and so with similar words - because I cannot work out when to use z except in words like zoo, zoom, Piza and Ritz.

Four of my defences against misspelt English are:

    Using the spell checker
    Reading material through carefully
    Getting other people to proof read
    Using a dictionary

Andrew Roberts

The contributors to this page include:

Shama Abraham, Sasha Abrahamson, Omenebele Achuka, Cletus Agwo, Hibo Ahmed, Shamima Akhtar, Marcella Amado-Taylor, Kellie Auld, Saba Bahta, Christos Baliktsioglou, Tom Bayman, Shumi Begum, Charlotte Best, Scott Brown, Katya Buroni, Beverley Chakawata, Samantha Chase, Donna Daley, Emma Dalzell, Joanna Davidson, Celina Dumas, Camelia Ellis, Carole (Doreen) Ferguson, Redempta Friday, Alex Glyde, Mandi Goldberg, Deborah Goulden, Tracey Green, Jolene Greeves, Bahareh Haghighat-Khah (Bobby), Danielle Hartery, Michelle Jones, Arzu Kaya, Vishal Khanna, Tim Knight, Linda Kumah, Joan Langley, Danny Liecier, Suzanne Macdonald, Anna McGilvray, Allison McLaren, Halima Mian, Paraskevi Minatsi, Margaret Ndagire, Sally Palmer, Gemma Pegg, Garreth Phelan, Andrew Roberts, Mandy Sabaroche, Thokozile Donata Senda, Leanora Smith, Juliet Swinerd, Maria Ward, Louise Warriar, Dianne Williams

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