The 201 Most Commonly Misspelled Words in English

Mnemonic Devices Can Help You Spell the Words Correctly

Sign that says we are committed to excellence but excellence is misspelled
The adjective excellent already appears in our list of 201 Commonly Misspelled Words. Now you might want to add the noun excellence. Janet Fekete/Getty Images

With a little practice, you can improve your spelling. Begin by reviewing the following list of 201 of some of the most commonly misspelled words in English, including advice on how to learn to spell the words correctly and use them in a sentence. When you're done, test your ability to spell these words with spelling review exercises and a quiz on 25 commonly misspelled words.

Commonly Misspelled Words

The table below includes the word and its variations in the first column, tips such as advice or a mnemonic device for remembering the correct spelling in column two, and the word used correctly in a sentence in column three.

Where appropriate, some letters are intentionally uppercased—while others are lowercased—to make the mnemonic device more useful.

Word/Variations

Spelling Tips

Sentence

absence

It makes “sence” that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

accommodate

This word can accommodate a double "c" and a double "m."

I would like to accommodate his wishes.

achieve

Remember “I” before “e” except after “c.”

He achieved all his dreams.

acquire

I “c” that you want to acquire it.

The team acquired three new players this year.

across

Let “Ross” row across.

Let’s row the boat across the pond.

address 

Deliver the double “d” to the right address.

Make sure you have the right address before you send the package.

advertise

The ADVERT was revISEd.

Madison Avenue knows it pays to advertise.

advice

I “c” that you gave me advice.

Good advice is as good as gold.

among

A monk was among the worshipers.

He was among the living.

apparent

The AP ate with his PARENT.

It’s apparent that he made a mistake.

argument

Gumbo lost an e in an argument.

The two politicians got into a heated argument.

athlete

Don’t delete the “l” in athlete.

Tom Brady is one of the country’s top athletes.

awful

Something that is full of aw is always very bad.

That food smelled awful. It must have spoiled in the fridge.

balance

The BAd man used a LANCE.

Try to strike a balance between diet and exercise.

basically

It’s BASIC that I have an ALLY.

He is basically dishonest.

becoming

BEes will be COMING to flowers near you.

The boy is quickly becoming a man.

before

BEe went to the FORE when called upon.

He’ll be going away to college before you know it.

beginning

Add an “n” and “ing” to begin to get beginning.

In the beginning, there was the heaven and the Earth.

believe

Do not believe a lie.

I believe in magic.

benefit

BENE is very FIT.

The benefit raised quite a bit of money for charity.

breathe

Take an extra “e” when you breathe.

I can’t breathe; I need some air.

brilliant

The BRILLo pad was gIANT.

Einstein’s theory of relativity was brilliant.

business

The BUS IN the terminal was a mESS.

It’s not personal; it’s just business.

calendar

Dara checked the calendar every day. 

Look at the calendar to see what date Thanksgiving is on this year.

careful

Careful not to add an extra “l” to careful.

Be careful when crossing the street. 

category

The CAT’s EGg is GORY.

When you play Jeopardy, pick the right category.

ceiling

I before “e” except after “c.”

Do you know how to install a ceiling fan?

cemetery

Eileen found herself at e's in the cemetery. 

Many horror stories take place in the cemetery.

certain

He’s CERebral, so don’t TAINt it.

I’m certain I left my keys by the door.

chief

Remember “I” before “e” except after “c.”

The chief of police just took over the job last month.

citizen

Don’t CITe It; practice ZEN.

The good citizen votes in every election.

coming

Coming is too short to have two “m’s.”

I’ll be coming home soon.

competition

COMe PET IT, ION.

The competition at the track meet was fierce.

convenience

I before “e” except after “c.”

The convenience store opened at 7 a.m.

criticize

There’s no “s” in criticize.

I don’t mean to criticize, but you did the problem wrong.       

decide

Clide, remove the “l” and spell decide.

You need to decide which man to marry.

definite

DEb had a FINITE limit.

I’ll need a definite answer today.

deposit

DEb POSITed that we deposit the money.

Don’t forgot to deposit the check at the bank.

describe

DEb hired a SCRIBE.

Please describe the man who attacked you.

desperate

DES, PER your direction, rATEd it.

I am desperate to find a new place to live.      

develop

Lop off the “e” in develop.

They used to develop film in a darkroom.

difference

We DIFFER about pENCE.

What’s the difference between pink and mauve?

dilemma

Emma faced a dilemma.

I’m in a terrible dilemma; I don’t know what to do.

disappear

It takes two “p’s” but only one “s” to spell disappear.

The boy just disappeared. I hope he wasn’t kidnapped.

disappoint

You have a point; add the second “p” in disappoint.

I hate to disappoint my mother.

discipline

 The DISC is Perfectly in LINE.

He is a believer in strong discipline.

does

The DOE Sang.

Does she want to come with us?

during

DU bought a RING.

It happened during the night.

easily

The bEASt Is LovelY.

My mom is so easily fooled.

eight

There’s an eight in hEIGHT.

“Eight is Enough” was the name for a TV show.  

either

Ed Is THERe.

Either he goes, or I do.

embarrass

It's hard to embarrass really righteous and serious students.

I don’t want to embarrass you, but your pants have a rip.

environment

A new environment will iron me out.

Many people are concerned about the environment.

equipped

Emphatically, hE QUIPPED that he was equipped for the job.

The plane is equipped with many of the modern luxuries and comforts.

exaggerate

Goofy Greg loved to exaggerate.

Don’t exaggerate; the fish you caught was only three inches long.  

excellent

The EXact CELL is bENT.

The meal was excellent.

except

My EX is Certain I’m inEPT.

The student completed all the problems but the last one.

exercise

I EXERt and I’m preCISE when I exercise.

To lose weight, you need to eat nutritious foods and exercise.

existence

I EXIST with mike pENCE.

Many have debated the existence of an all-powerful being.

expect

I met my EX in PE, what do you expeCT?

What did you expect?

experience

My EX said that PER Irv we’ll invite mike pENCE.

The trip was a great experience for the kids.

Experiment

PER my EX, I MENTored him.

Scientists perform many experiments to find the truth.

explanation

My EX had a PLAN AT the unION.

I think he deserves an honest explanation.

familiar

That liar looks familiar.

The surroundings look familiar, but I’m still lost.

fascinating

“S” before “C” in fascinating.

Mr. Spock found many things to be fascinating.  

finally

In the end, there are two “l’s” in finally.

He has finally arrived; now we can eat our Thanksgiving meal.

foreign

FOR EIGght, the Nation said they were foreign.

He grew up in a foreign country.

forty

There’s no “u” in forty.

The punt return specialist ran to ball out the forty-yard line.

forward

FOR sam, he was a WARD of the court.

Be optimistic; always look forward.

friend

Don’t be a fiend; insert the “r” in friend.

He was a dedicated and loyal friend. 

fundamental

Fundamental is just FUN, DAMEN, and TAL.

We have fundamental differences of opinion.

generally

Generally, a general is your best ally.

The general was generally correct.

government

The GOVERNor was deMENTed.

The government may shut down if the parties don’t reach a deal.

grammar

GRAM didn’t want to MAR our grammar.

I try, but my grammar is atrocious.

guarantee

The GUARd ANd the TEEn guaranteed it.

The car has a 100,000-mile guarantee.

guidance

The GUIDe was in a trance because there’s only one “e” in guidance.

The guidance counselor advised the student not to attend college.

happiness

Drop the “y” and replace it with an “I” to achieve happiness.

Jefferson wrote that all people are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

heroes

HE ROped an E for hiS heroes.

 World War II produced many heroes.

humorous

He HUMs fOR the MOUSe.

The author was very humorous. His books displayed great wit.

identity

There is an “ID” in identity.

It’s easy to have your identity stolen. 

imaginary

IMAGINe there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you give it A tRY.

The little girl had an imaginary friend.

imitation

Don’t imitate. There’s only one “m” in imitation.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

immediately

Mom ate immediately.

Come here immediately.

incidentally

He INCIted by DENTing the car of his ALLY.

Incidentally, I borrowed your car last night.

independent

There is a dent in independent.

The young man was very independent.    

intelligent

IN TELLIng the GENT, he showed he was intelligent.

She is extremely intelligent; she scored 1,600 on her SATs.

interesting

The INTERn was bEST at showING he was interesting.

This article is very interesting.

interfere

The INTERn watered the FERn I sEe.

Please do not interfere.

interpretation

The INTERn PRETended that A staTION was near.

The two had very different interpretations as to what happened.

interruption

Don’t interrupt: Interruption has two “r’s.”

The interruption couldn’t be helped; his wife was having a baby.

invitation

I INVITe you to offer a raTION.

He received an invitation to the birthday party.

irrelevant

Don’t make the second “r” in irrelevant, irrelevant. And, remember, there’s an “ant” at the end.

The information he provided was irrelevant.

irritable

It would irritate me if you forgot the second “r” in irritable, and don’t forget the table at the end.

After the operation, she was very irritable.

island

An island is land surrounded by water.

Hawaii is made up of a group of islands.

jealous

JEAn’s a LOUSe to be jealous.

He was jealous of her former lover.   

judgment

Unlike judge, there is no “e” after the “g” in judgment.

He showed bad judgment by putting that story in the paper.

knowledge

I KNOW you can reach the LEDGE.

How do you measure the sum of all knowledge?

laboratory

I had to LABOR at orATORY.

The scientist labored away in her laboratory.

length

Make it longer by putting a “g” between the “n” and “t” in length.

He ran the kickoff return the length of the football field.

lesson

Listen to the lesson, and spend LESS time ON studying.

The teacher gave a great lesson.               

library

They had brandy in the library.

You’ll find many books in the library.

license

To say he had LICE is nonSENSE.

That’s not a license to steal.

loneliness

The LONE LINE did have SS at the end.

Emily Dickenson suffered from great loneliness.

losing

I like to hear LO SING.

Coach Vince Lombardi hated losing.

lying, laying

Truthfully, there’s a “y” but no “ie” in lying.

I was lying on my back, while he was laying the book down.

marriage

h=He MARRied her in carrIAGE.

Their marriage is on the rocks.

mathematics

MATH and E equals matheMATICS.

Einstein was an expert in mathematics.

medicine

Club MED Is at the CINEma.

All doctors practice medicine in one form or another.

miniature

A MINI A has no staTURE.

Legoland has many miniature scenes built from the interlocking blocks.

minute

Minute is MINU and TE.

It only takes a minute.  

mysterious

MY STERIO is for US.

She was very mysterious.

naturally

NATURe has an ALLY.

She is naturally blond.

necessary

It's necessary to remember the cesspool in the middle.

Is that really necessary?

neighbor

The horse NEIGHed at the BORing man.

My neighbor is very nice.

neither

NEIl is THERe.

It's neither here nor there to me.

noticeable

The NOTICE is ABLE to help.

His gray hair was very noticeable.

occasion

It’s an occasion to remember that occasion has two “c’s” and one “s.”

It's a special occasion.

occurred

It occurred to him that there are two “c’s” and two “s’s” in occurred.

It never occurred to her to change the light bulb.

official

Old Frank Finklestein Is Cute In A Loving way.

It's official: He's now the president.

often

OF mice and men there were TEN.

I don't come here very often.

omission

Omit the second “m” but not the second “s” in omission.

That was an omission on my part.

operate

I hOPE to RATE it.

The doctor decided to operate.

optimism

hOP with TIM into the schISM.

I have great optimism that better days are ahead.

original

ORIGami Is NAL’s favorite.

His work wasn't very original.

ought

Ought is “bought” minus the “b.”

He ought to have told you.             

paid

PA Is Done with work.

When do you get paid?

parallel

Two “l’s” form parallel lines in parallel.

Parallel parking can be difficult.

particularly

PART Is the CULt with ARLY.

His error was particularly egregious.

peculiar

It’s peculiar the PECU is a LIAR.

That bird is very peculiar.

perceive

PERCE has a hIVE.

I perceive things differently than you.             

perform

PER the directions they FORMed a line.

Will the band perform tonight.

permanent

The PERM of the mAN  costs just a cENT.

That change was permanent.

persevere

PER the directions, he SEVEREd it.

The only way to succeed is to persevere.

personally

the PERSON was an ALLY.

Personally, I don't like it.

persuade

PER the SUn, he had it mADE.

Tried to persuade him that he is wrong.

picture

The PIC was taken with the right aperture.

That's a beautiful picture.

piece

Have a piece of the pie.

I won't let my daughter pierce her ears.

planning

Plan to put two “n’s” in planning.

I was planning to come later.

pleasant

He tried to PLEASe the ANT.

The visit has been very pleasant.

political

The POL Is noT ethICAL.

Everything is so political these days.

possess

Remember to possess two double “s’s” in possess.

You don't possess an ounce of dignity.

possible

The POSSe Is BLEssed.

It’s just not possible to get the assignment completed in time.

practical

PRACTICe to replace the “e” with “al” in practical.

It’s not practical to rely on magic.

prefer

PREp the FERn.

I prefer orange juice to lemonade.

prejudice

Don’t PREJUDge; think twICE.

The racist man was very prejudice.          

presence

the PRESident chose pENCE.

He made is presence known.

privilege

Privilege is just PRIVI with a LEG and an E.

It’s been a privilege to meet you.

probably

He handled the PROBlem ABLY.

I could probably meet for lunch next week.

professional

The PROFESSor said there are two “s’s” in professIONAL.

He was very professional in his conduct at work.

promise

The PROM was a surpRISE.

I never promised you a rose garden.

proof

I have proof there are two “o’s” in proof.

Einstein showed mathematical proof the E = mc^2.

psychology

Please Say You Can Hit Old Ladies, Or Get Yogurt.

He practiced psychology for many years.

quantity

The QUANT Is TinY.

That’s a large quantity of grapes.

quarter

The QUARTEt is Ready.

Four quarters make a dollar.

quiet

Please keep quiet about my diet.

Just be quiet!    

quit

Quiet lost its “e” and became quit.

No, I won’t quit this job.

quite

Quit added an “e” and became quite.

That’s quite a statement you made.

realize

The REAL man materiaLIZEd.

I didn’t realize I was being so bold.

receive

Remember “I” before “e” except after “c.”

It’s better to give than to receive.

recognize

Ryan Epping was COGent that he had to orgaNIZE.

He was recognized for his bravery.              

recommend

I recommend you put two “m’s” in recommend.

I highly recommend the applicant.

reference

REFER it to mike pENCE.

I’ll be happy to serve as a reference.

religious

RELIGate the task to the pIOUS man.

There’s a great divide between the religious and nonreligious.

repetition

REPEat TI TI in repetitiON.

Repetition is the best way to learn.

restaurant

 

He ran a very clean restaurant.

rhythm

Rhythm helps your two hips move.

Dance to the rhythm of the night.

ridiculous

RID the Island of CUrious LOUSes.

What you propose is just ridiculous.

sacrifice

use the SACk to RId the oriFICE of mice.

It was a great sacrifice for me to come here.

safety

Safely add “ty” to safe to get safety.

He needs to beware of the safety rules.

scissors

Steve Cut Into the Seven Samurai on Orders from Rick Smith.

Never run with scissors.

secretary

Just add “ary” to secret to get secretary.

The secretary is very quick at dictation.

separate

There's a rat in separate.

There are two separate doors at the front and back of the house.

shining

Jack Nicholson hurt his SHIN in the shinING.

The sun was shining brightly.

similar

SIMI valley has a lot of LARd.

The two theories are very similar.

sincerely

Pair SINCE and RELY to get sincerely.

Generally, end a letter by saying “sincerely.”        

soldier

Sam Ordered Larry to DIE Respectfully for his country.

The soldier died in battle.

speech

Draw it out: Put two “e’s” in speech.

Martin Luther King Jr. gave a memorable speech in Washington.

stopping

STOP and hear the PING.

We’ll be stopping at the store on the way home (to go shopping).

strength

Schwarzenegger Trained REally Neatly at Gold’s Gym on FifTH.

The athlete showed great strength and agility.

studying

Just add “ing” to STUDY to get studyING.

I’ve been up all night studying.

succeed

To succeed, put two “c’s” in succeed.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

successful

Be successful: Put two “c’s” and two “s’s” in successful.

The businesswoman is very successful.

surely

SURE, just add “LY” to sure to get surely.

Surely you don’t believe that!

surprise

The SURPlus caused inventory to RISE.

It was a wonderful surprise to see you here.

temperature

The TEMP, Ed, Realized Afterward That Umpire Rick Equivocated.

He had a temperature of 100.4 F.

temporary

The TEMP OR Rick Ate Rare Yogurt.

Relax. This situation is only temporary.

through

Just add “hr” to tough to get through.

He counted every number from one through 10,000.

toward

I TOW and ARDvark.

Never run toward danger.

tries

Just switch the “r” and “e” in tires to get tries.

He tries so hard, but he rarely succeeds.

truly

Tom Really Understands Libby’s Yeti.

I truly appreciate your help.

twelfth

The TWin ELF THought about it.

He sang until the twelfth of never.

until

To spell until, just think untile without the “e.”

He sang until the twelfth of never.

unusual

UNUSed, Uni Asked Larry for a loan.

It’s unusual to duplicate sentences, but sometimes it’s called for.

using

Using is just like use, but replace the "e" with “ing.”

I don’t like using a computer.

usually

USU was his ALLY.

He usually arrives early.

village

It takes two “l’s” to spell village.

It takes a village to solve problems.

weird

I before e except after c.

That man was weird.

welcome

WE Love COmmunists from MEndecino.

Welcome to the jungle.

Whether, weather

Heather likes hot WEATHER.

Whether I want to accept it or not, the weather will soon turn to snow.

writing

To write writing, just drop the “e” and replace with “ing.”

As of this writing, the information is correct.