A Handy Spelling Guide: 20 Words You Need To Stop Misspelling Today

Spelling Bee Contest

Can you spell? How does your written word compare to your spoken English?

Reading comments online, I have noticed that there are people who write flawlessly, while there are people who have spelling and grammar mistakes littered all over their writings.

While there is no prize in life for the best speller, making empirical spelling mistakes in your writing can distract people from your core message, prevent you from delivering your point across, and worst of all—shortchange people’s impression of your cognitive ability. This is especially true in online mediums like emails, discussion boards, and blog comments where all the other party can “see” of you is your writing.

I know that I definitely pay more heed to an email that is free from errors than one which is laden with mistakes; the former holds my interest longer and hence has a higher chance of achieving its objective, while the latter heads straight to the trash folder faster than you can spell the word “embarrassment”.

(Read: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Business Proposals (or Any Pitch for That Matter))

I’m no spelling bee winner, but I do endeavor to make my writings as error-free as possible—because I know that the surest way to turn off someone with your writing is to have one littered with writing mistakes. Below is a list of words which I have observed to be commonly misspelled / misused, along with their correct forms (note that the writing on PE conforms to American English):

Common Spelling Mistakes

 Correct WordNOT…


Spelled with two “c”s and one “s”.

Usage: “Weddings are such joyous occasions.”

ocasion, occassion
ocasional, occassional




Spelled with one “s” and two “p”s.

Usage: “He really disappointed me when he forgot all about our first year anniversary.”)

disapoint, dissappoint
disapointed, dissappointed
disapointment, dissappointment



Spelled with two “r”s and two “s”s.

Usage: “John really embarrassed Ann in front of the crowd when he made fun of her like that.”

embarass, embarras
embarassed, embarrased
embarassment, embarrasment 


Spelled with “ite” at the end, not “ate”. There is no “a” in “definite”.

Usage: “I will definitely be there at your wedding. You can count on me for that.”



Spelled with two “p”s and one “s”.

Usage: “She is supposed to be here at two pm but she is still not here yet. She must be running late.”



Usage: Regardless of what he did, he is still your father at the end of the day.


Often wrongly used in place of “regardless”. There is no such word as “irregardless”. [More on wikipedia.]


believe — believable (remove the last “e” when you add “able”)
love — lovable (remove the last “e” when you add “able”)
relive — relivable (remove the last “e” when you add “able”)
knowledge — knowledgeable (do not remove “e” when you add “able”)
change / changeable (do not remove “e” when you add “able”)
judge — judgment (American) / judgement  (British) 

The extended forms of the root words are commonly misspelled, either with an extra “e” or missing an “e” in the middle. This is where the quirks of English kicks in: there is no set rule on when to remove the “e” or not from the root word. The best way is just to memorize them by heart.




Spelled with two “a”s in the middle.

Usage: “The two brothers have been separated at birth. They have since been reunited.”




Spelled with three “s”s — one before the first “e” and two after that

Usage: “You are obsessed with catching that thief. Stop thinking about it; he has already escaped with your purse and there’s nothing that can be done about it anymore.”

obsses, obssess
obssesed, obssessed
obssesion, obssession 



Spelled with four “s”s — two before the first “e” and two after that

Usage: “He is a very materialistic person. He is often comparing his material possessions with other people.”

posess, posses
posessed, possesed
posession, possesion 

Commonly Misused Words

The words in both columns are correct and exist in English language, but are often wrongly used.


effect (verb, noun)

To cause/bring about a change. Most commonly used as a noun.

E.g., “He effected these changes with his great persuasion skills.” (verb) or “The effects of the company merger are still being felt after two years.” (noun)

affect (verb)

To produce an effect.

E.g., “He affected me a great deal when he said those harsh words.”



Contraction for “you are”.

E.g.,You’re the most beautiful person I have ever met.” or “You’re such a true friend to me.”


A possessive term. It refers to someone’s ownership over something.

E.g., “Is this your book?” or “Your boyfriend borrowed money from me yesterday.”



Contraction for “it is”.

E.g.,It’s not easy for her to raise two kids on her own. We need to help her out.” or “It’s natural for her to be angry after a betrayal like this.”


A possessive term. It refers to an item’s ownership over something.

E.g., “This is a cat. That is its tail.” or “This book is a gift. Its cover is beautifully designed.”



Contraction for “they are”.

E.g.,They’re very good friends.” or “They’re arguing with each other right now.”


A possessive term. It refers to a group’s ownership over something.

E.g., “That is the Stepford family. Their house is right across the block.” or “Mavis just got married to Prince yesterday. Their wedding was beautiful.”


Refers to a position or a point.
E.g.,There she is, standing right next to the pole.” or “There are twelve books in this box.”



Contraction for “we are”.

E.g.,We’re currently living in New York.” or “We’re not on speaking terms at the moment.”


Past tense of “are”.

E.g., “We were at the Stepford’s yesterday. Their place was beautiful.” or “They were planning to go fishing, but the rain made them change their plans.”


stationery (noun)

Writing materials such as pen, pencils, eraser, and envelopes. 

E.g., “We need to buy some stationery for Tadi. He doesn’t have anything to write with for his English lessons.”

stationary (adjective)

To remain motionless.

E.g., “That car has been stationary for a while.”


principle (noun)

An accepted rule of conduct.

E.g., “You can find many principles of happiness in this happiness guide. Adhering to them will definitely make you a happier person, starting today.”

principal (adjective, noun)

As an adjective: First in importance.

E.g., “The principal rule of baseball is to score more runs than the other team by crossing all four base paths.”

As a noun: The chief or head of an institution, usually an educational one.

E.g., “The principal of this school is Mr Quek. He has been here for over three years.”


to (preposition, adverb)

As a preposition: To express direction, motion, or to a point in time.

E.g., “This shop opens from nine am to six pm.” or “Go to Grandpa and give him a kiss.”

As an adverb: Into a state of consciousness.

E.g., “After he came to, his family began fussing over him.”

too (adverb)

Excessive, extremely, very.

E.g., “She is too spoilt. Her parents should keep her in check.” or “He is too fat. He needs to start losing some weight.”


dessert (noun)

Spelled with two “s”s. Refers to cake, pie, ice cream, etc. that is typically served after the main course of a meal.

E.g., “What’s for dessert today? I hope it’s chocolate fudge ice cream.”

desert (noun)

Spelled with only one “s”. Refers to a region with so little rainfall that only few forms of life can exist.

E.g., “The Sahara is the largest desert on the African continent and the hottest desert in the world.”


loose (adjective)

Free from restraint; not bound together.

E.g., “Your shoe laces have gone loose. Tie them before we get off the car.” or “He set his dogs loose on the intruder.”

lose (verb)
lost (verb, past tense); loss (noun) 

To come to be without possession of something, usually through accident or theft.

E.g., “He lost his wallet this morning.”

To be bereaved of by death.

E.g., “The loss of his sister devastated him.”

Any To Add To This List?

How about you? Do you know of any commonly made spelling or grammatical mistakes that are not in this list? Feel free to share in the comments section and I’ll gladly add the most common mistakes to the list!

Image: Spelling Bee