Spelling Difficulty: Top 5 Reasons

Spelling Difficulty: Top 5 Reasons

Rules, alpha­bets and sounds, homonyms and homo­phones, and mean­ing and pro­nun­ci­a­tion make spelling challenging.

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Mod­ern Eng­lish has its roots in 1550. There are rules and each rule has its excep­tions, which makes spelling dif­fi­cult to master.

Alpha­bets are a cause of spelling dif­fi­cul­ties. The alpha­bet a, for exam­ple, rep­re­sents six dif­fer­ent sounds. On the other hand, the same sound may be rep­re­sented by dif­fer­ent let­ters or com­bi­na­tion of letters.

Homonyms are words that are spelled and pro­nounced alike but have dif­fer­ent mean­ings. Pool (a body of water) and pool (a game), for exam­ple, are homonyms. Homo­phones are words that are pro­nounced alike but are dif­fer­ent in spelling, deriva­tion and mean­ing. Air and heir, for exam­ple, are homophones.

Words with the same spelling, but with dif­fer­ent pro­nun­ci­a­tion and dif­fer­ent mean­ing are another source of dif­fi­culty. Invalid (not valid) and invalid (dis­abled per­son), for exam­ple, is a con­fus­ing word pair for those with Eng­lish as a sec­ond language.

Words are pro­nounced dif­fer­ently in dif­fer­ent regions. For exam­ple, sauce is pro­nounced as sass caus­ing spelling difficulties.


Mer­sand, J., Grif­fith, K. & Grif­fith, F. (2006). Spelling (4th Ed.). Barron’s Edu­ca­tional Series, Inc. New York, U.S.A.


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