Top 15 tricky English words: Memory Games

12 July 2017 41

Are you familiar with the situation when a particular word is on your mind, and you want to spell it out but not sure how to do it correctly?

I remember my mid-20s when all I read was product labels in Stop & Shop and when I talked with a slang only. You probably wonder how did I become a writer, but I'll tell you about this another time. So, the reason why I got back to those times is that I used to face a problem of not being sure how to spell out right some tricky words. I bet you know that feeling when a certain word is in your thoughts, but as soon as you want to write it down on paper, all the spelling variations instantly disappear from your head. And here you are: staying and thinking on how the word that you know for sure and use occasionally can disappear from your mind in seconds. Is it mystic?

Well, more likely it’s a bad memory along with a poor lexicon. That’s what I was fighting with for a long time, and this is what I eventually won. But I still have some words that make me maliciously smile every time I pronounce them, and here it is my top 15 hard spelling words that I will remember for centuries.


[ prəˌnʌnsiˈeɪʃn ]

I start with the word I’ve already used in this article, “pro-nun-ci-a-tion.” English is my second language, and I moved to America at a fairly mature age. Therefore, I used to speak some words with a rather funny accent. The word “pronunciation” was one of them. Each time I was saying it, I sounded like a native elderly Frenchwoman because I uttered the sound “nun” as if I had a blocked nose. It did look similar to the French “on” and while it made some people smile, I imagined every time how I’m writing down this word. This is how I finally remembered its spelling, but I still need to work on my false French pronunciation.


[ ˌmɪsˈspel ]

Another common mistake that I also used to do is the misspelling of the word “mis-spell.” I know it’s hard to learn from the experience of others, but trust me: don’t text your friend with the phrase “you’ve mispelled above, my fellow,” because he will likely respond to you with “you better check your own orthography, idiot.” This is what happened to me one day, and I learned not to correct someone else’s speech and try to check my own. Otherwise, you will feel embarrassed as I felt that time.


[ ɪmˈbærəs ]

Using the word “em-bar-rass” in the previous paragraph made me realize that it’s a beautiful example of the “double letters” problem. I sometimes forget about the double “r” in the middle. Thankfully, the auto-correction feature saves me from feeling embarrassed for such a silly mistake.


[ ˈmeɪn.tɪ.nəns ]

I get nervous every time I try to remember how many vowel sounds and in what sequence they should go in a word “main-te-nance.” However, I try to keep in mind that there are as many vowels as the fingers on one hand: 1 letter “i,” 2 x “a” and 2 x “e.” It simplifies a bit the spelling process and lowers my chances to make a mistake.


[ əˈkɜːr ]

The word “occurred” is another tricky representative of the “double letter” group. In this case, most of us have troubles with the letter “c,” but it might be easy for you to remember the spelling if you split this word on the two syllables: oc - curred.


[ wɪrd ]

As you might guess already, the common mistake in the word “weird” is a wrong position of vowels. For no reasons some people spell it with the letters “ie” instead of “ei.” In this case, you have nothing to do but only remembering the spelling. Besides, keep in mind that this word has just one syllable which is also a bit weird, right?


[ ˈhær.əs ]

Spelling the word “ha-rass” we face with another problem. Most of us think that it also belongs to the “double letter” group and therefore, we try to make the derived word “harassment” which is already long even longer by adding an extra “r.” There is no need to intricate the word that is already complicated. So if you're unsure about the spelling, better don't put anything extra and leave the word as it is.


[ ˌkær.ɪˈbiː.ən ]

I still remember the story of my friends who went to the Caribbean islands and, of course, posted tons of pictures from there in their Instagram profiles. The photos were picturesque, but there was one detail: just a small mistake in the word “Car-ib-be-an” didn’t brighten up the appearance at all. So next time you decide to post something, check the photo caption first.


[ əˌkɑːməˈdeɪʃn ]

The word “ac-com-mo-da-tion” might be the easiest to remember from this list. Even so it looks pretty long and hard to spell, in fact, those five syllables are not that tough to remember. Try to speak this word for a few times and whenever you want to write it down, just pronounce it quietly to yourself.


[ ˈek.stə.si ]

Who doesn’t like to talk about “ec-sta-sy”? But some of us might have some troubles while trying to spell out this word. The thing is that the letter “s” in the end sounds similar to a soft “c” and this is why you get confused. Unfortunately, there is no cunning way to remember its spelling, but you can keep in mind that there are 2 letters “s” and a lonely letter “c.”


[ ˈnesəsəri ]

I’m pretty sure the word “nec-es-sar-y” is one of those that we use every day and, even so, misspell it sometimes. We have here the same trouble: 2 letters “s” and 1 “c.” Probably, everyone knows a tricky way with a shirt to remember its spelling: it's necessary to have 1 Collar and 2 Sleeves for any shirt. This will likely help you to avoid mistakes, but if no, then remember the phrase: Never Eat Crisps, Eat Salad Sandwiches And Remain Young.


[ mɪˈlen.i.əm ]

With “mil-len-ni-um” I associate a story about the Hilton hotel in New York that has a misspelled title. Right, there is just one “n” at the end! You might think that it was spelled like this on purpose, but who knows? Let's leave the truth in the walls of this hotel.


[ ˈrɪðəm ]

Another word with a single syllable and no vowels at all is “rhythm.” Just because this word differs so much from the rest, it’s pretty simple to remember that it has two letters “h” and makes your 2 Hips moving.


[ ˈseprət ]

The word “sep-a-rate” gives us some hard times with its middle section. But if you separate the two letters “a” with an “r" and keep in mind a small word “ara” every time you say this word, then its spelling won’t be a tough task for you anymore.


[ ˌdaɪ.əˈriː.ə ]

You never know what happens with you the next 5 minutes, but in case you are overtaken with the “di-ar-rhe-a” and need to leave a sick note, you will know for sure how to write it correctly. I know that its spelling is almost as unpleasant as the experience itself. Anyway, remember about the key element: double “r” followed by the letter “h.”

I know, it’s not easy to remember all the difficult to spell words, but here's my advice to you: try to learn the list above and use these words on any suitable occasion. Planning to use a synonym? Switch it with a word from the list! And, of course, keep in mind that pronunciation does not always match the spelling. This is why students and even native speakers sometimes struggle with a correct writing.

If you know any better ways to learn hard spelling words, let me know in the comments. I’ll gladly try them out!

Good luck in learning and passion in practicing.

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  • Art 6 years ago Thank you for this content! Reply
  • daddy 6 years ago greate article Reply