If English is your second language, working in an office where most people are native speakers isn’t easy. One of the biggest challenges is that the English language has a lot of words that are hard to spell. If your native language is spelled mostly phonetically — as, for example, Spanish and Japanese are —spelling in English can be especially confusing. Some of the hardest words to spell in English present difficulty because there are many similar sounds that are spelled differently, including words that sound EXACTLY the same. Then there are words that are spelled the same yet pronounced differently.
If you struggle with spelling words correctly when you are writing in English, it might help to know that you are from alone. In fact, lots of native speakers find spelling in English to be completely baffling, too.
The fact is, spelling in English is just plain confusing. But, at the same time, you want to spell English words correctly so you can better communicate with your colleagues and enhance your credibility. So how can you deal with the challenges of spelling in English?
The English Spellings You Should Master First
Look, there are a lot of words in English. And the language just keeps growing. About 171,000 English words are in current use. The good news is you don’t need to spell all of those words. Instead, focus on learning the correct spellings of English words that come up a lot in your daily life.
The English words you should know how to spell will depend a lot on your job. If you work in engineering, you’ll be spelling very different words on a daily basis than someone who works in hospitality.
You might also want to go back through some of your recent emails and make a note of other words that your colleagues use a lot. Those words might be related to the work you do — for example, advertise and benefits. Or they could just be part of the “office English” your colleagues typically use — for example, apparent, basically, category. And some might even be slang terms.
Between the specialized vocabulary of your field and the words your colleagues frequently use, you should be able to identify the words whose spellings you want to master first.
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Tools to Avoid Spelling Mistakes in English
You aren’t on your own when it comes to figuring out the correct spellings of English words. While you’re mastering the spelling of commonly used words at your job, you can also make use of a variety of tools.
Even native English speakers take spellcheck for granted sometimes. But it can really be a lifesaver. You can use spellcheck in Outlook, Gmail and other email applications. And if you’re working on a document, Microsoft Word and Google Drive also can check your spelling for you.
If you want deeper support, check out Grammarly. This app can help you avoid spelling mistakes and make your writing in English better in many other ways as well.
British English Spelling Vs. American English Spelling
If you studied British English but now work in the U.S., you’ve discovered that a whole host of familiar English words are spelled differently in the States.
It might be hard to remember to type “color” (the correct U.S. spelling) instead of “colour.” In an email to your teammates, it probably doesn’t matter too much if you revert back to the British English spellings that are familiar to you — although they might tease you about it. But in more formal writing, you’ll want to make sure you are using American English spellings instead of British English ones.
You can find plenty of guides to British English spelling vs. American English spelling online. We like the spelling guide by Cambridge University Press. Here are a few highlights:
- British English spelling: realise
American English spelling: realize
- British English spelling: licence
American English spelling: license
- British English spelling: analyse
American English spelling: analyze
Again, you’ll want to focus on memorizing the spellings of the words that come up most frequently in your job.
Commonly Misspelled Words In English
Let’s wrap things up by talking about some of the most commonly misspelled words in English. No matter what your job is, you’re likely to encounter many of these words regularly.
The Oxford English Dictionary actually tracks the English words that get misspelled the most often. You might want to keep this list handy so you can consult it for reference.
- Correct spelling: publicly
Common misspelling: publically
- Correct spelling: pharaoh
Common misspelling: pharoah
- Correct spelling: definitely
Common misspelling: definately
- Correct spelling: government
Common misspelling: goverment
- Correct spelling: separate
Common misspelling: seperate
- Correct spelling: occurred
Common misspelling: occured
- Correct spelling: until
Common misspelling: untill
- Correct spelling: receive
Common misspelling: recieve
- Correct spelling: which
Common misspelling: wich
- Correct spelling: accommodate
Common misspelling: accomodate
Have you mastered the spellings of those English words? Then we’ve got a longer list of commonly misspelled words for you to check out. This one is by Richard Nordquist, a professor at Georgia Southern University. We like this list because Nordquist provides memory tricks to help you recall correct spellings. For example, to remember how to spell the word acquire, you can use the phrase “I ‘c’ that you want to acquire it.”
Here are a few more words from Nordquist’s list that are likely to come up at work:
Spelling is only one part of being an effective writer in English. If you are looking for other ways to improve your written communication in English, we’d love to tell you more about English language training by Fluency Corp. Our language classes focus on helping you learn the English words and phrases you can put to use immediately on your job. We don’t waste time on cookie-cutter lessons that aren’t relevant to you. Everything is customized to your needs.