Spelling refers to how we put letters together to form words. Correct spelling is an important part of successful writing since incorrect spelling can lead to confusion over meaning and gives an overall unprofessional look to a paper. Most of us occasionally make spelling errors that can be easily fixed by using some common sense strategies and learning basic spelling rules.

Here are some strategies to help you become a better speller:

  1. Use spellchecker: When writing on a computer, it is advisable to use a spellchecker to find the most offensive errors. However, since spellcheckers do not always accurately recognize some words, be sure to think carefully about the suggestions offered and, if necessary, consult a dictionary. When writing with a pen and paper, use your knowledge of simple spelling rules and a good reference site or book.

  2. Keep lists of personal spelling errors, or “demons,” which are the words you continually spell incorrectly. Use your spelling demon list to carefully edit all of your written work. You may wish to test your knowledge and practice your spelling skills on the following websites:

Common Spelling Rules

There are four common spelling pitfalls that you would have learned early on in your schooling. Now is a good time to review these basics. See the spelling rules and examples below:


Commonly Confused Words

There are some words that are commonly misused or mixed up with other words. Be cautious of homonyms, words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. An example of a homonym is they’re, their and there. Use the following strategies to deal with commonly confused words:

  •  List: Make a list of your personal spelling demons: words that you commonly have difficulty spelling.
  • Proofread: When you are proofreading, refer to this list and pay special attention to these words in your writing.
  • Find: You may use the “Find” feature in your word processor to locate homonyms that you misuse frequently.
  • Research:To explore an extensive list of commonly confused words, visit "Words Commonly Confused" from Santa Monica College.

Capital Letters

Capital letters are used only in certain situations in your writing. For example, use capital letters:

  • as the first letter of each sentence
  • for the personal pronoun “I”
  • at the beginning of proper nouns, such as names, months, and days
  • to indicate a language or a country, such as English or Great Britain

You should never write an entire paper in capital letters; it is very hard to read. Look for a complete set of capitalization rules and a practice exercise at Empire State College's Writer's Complex.