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How to Improve Your Spelling

Using proper spelling ensures that you'll be able to express yourself in written language. If your ideas are coherent and original but your words are misspelled, readers may not understand what you mean. This guide provides links to dozens of resources that will sharpen your spelling skills, whether you're learning the English language for the first time or consider yourself an advanced speller. In addition, students and adults with dyslexia or other learning disabilities will find material designed specifically to address their challenges. Resources for teachers and links to information on spelling bees and dictionaries round out the guide.

Spelling Fundamentals

Did you know that the first English dictionary was produced in 1604? Though educational books of wordlists existed before then, the efforts to standardize spelling gained momentum in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In this section, you'll find resources that focus on the history behind standardized spelling. Exploring this history will help you understand why and how we spell the way we do today. You'll also learn some of the fundamental spelling rules.

When Was Spelling Standardized?

"A Brief History of English Spelling" (The English Spelling Society)

The English Spelling Society's website covers the history of the English language from its arrival in Britain with the Anglo-Saxon invaders, to the efforts of famed lexicographer Samuel Johnson, and beyond.

"Spelling and Standardization Historical Overview" (Rice Univ.)

Professor Suzanne Kemmer of Rice University offers a detailed history of English spelling, from Anglo-Saxon times to the modern, digital age.

"Why Is English Spelling So Weird?" (YouTube)

This YouTube video video, courtesy of Arika Okrent from Mental Floss, features live drawings that tell the history of English spelling.

Spelling Rules and Basics

"Spelling Basics" (Spellmasters Australia)

Spellmasters Australia provides a list of fundamental spelling rules with examples and exceptions. Although Australian English spelling sometimes differs from American English spelling, the rules provided here apply to both forms.

"Fundamental Spelling Rules" (Cengage)

This PDF from Cengage Learning offers spelling rules and a template for you to track misspelled words, correct yourself, and remind yourself of the general rule behind a word's correct spelling. 

"Top Ten Spelling Rules" (HowToSpell)

This video accompanies a list of the Top Ten Spelling Rules from Howtospell.co.uk. Like Australian English, British English sometimes differs from American English. The rules offered here, however, apply to all three.

"23 Difficult Words to Spell" (Oxford Dictionaries)

Read about some of the most commonly misspelled words (including "weird," "accommodate," and "handkerchief") courtesy of this blog post from Oxford Dictionaries.

How to Learn to Spell

Spelling is one of the most important steps on the journey to full literacy. Below, you'll find spelling resources for those of all ages and abilities. Whether you're in elementary school and just getting started spelling, learning English as a second language as an adult, or working to improve your spelling with dyslexia or learning disabilities, LitCharts has you covered. 

Spelling Resources for Children

KidsSpell

This website allows you to plug in a grade level and reading ability, and will then offer corresponding spelling lists and games to help improve spelling. 

"10 Ways to Make Spelling Practice Fun" (PopSugar)

Amanda Morin compiled this list of fun activities to help kids learn to spell, from designing crosswords to involving the senses for a more engaging learning process.

"Spelling Games" (PBS Kids)

The children's network offers a web platform for games that help children learn to spell, featuring beloved characters like Caillou and Cookie Monster.  

"20 Cool, New, Totally Fun Ways to Learn Spelling Words" (TeachMama.com)

Amy Kilpatrick Mascott (a reading specialist, writer, and literacy consultant) blogs about strategies to make learning to spell both fun and instructive for children.

Spelling Resources for Adult Learners

"Learning to Spell for Adults" (Touch-type Read and Spell)

This post outlines the possible root causes of spelling difficulties. It also discusses the differences in learning to spell as an adult rather than as a child. Helpful spelling tips are included at the end.

"Catch the Spelling" (ManyThings.org)

Work on your spelling and vocabulary with these fun games from ManyThings.org. You'll be able to choose between games with different vocabulary levels.

"Adult" (SpellQuiz)

These spelling exercises, which are geared specifically toward adult learners, will allow you to listen to a phrase or sentence and type what you hear. It's a helpful tool for learning phonetic spelling.

"Spelling: Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms" (ThoughtCo)

ThoughtCo. has collated resources from around the web on grammatical and rhetorical terms, including many that target problem words and address spelling challenges.

Learning Spelling With Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities

Don't let dyslexia or other learning disabilities prevent you from becoming a stellar speller. With the resources below, you can find strategies to help you improve your spelling skills.

"Spelling Technique for Dyslexic [Kids]" (YouTube)

In this video, a mom with a dyslexic son demonstrates a visual-conceptual method for learning how to spell basic and difficult words alike.

"Dyslexia Help" (Univ. of Michigan)

This resource from the University of Michigan provides support for people with dyslexia, parents, and professionals alike, with strategies, news, and an email newsletter.

"Spelling and Students with Learning Disabilities" (LD Online)

In this post for LD Online ("the educators' guide to learning disabilities and ADHD"), Louise Spear-Swerling offers strategies and resources for teachers looking to instruct students with learning disabilities in spelling.

"Effective Spelling Programs for Students with LDs" (Learning Disabilities at School)

This blog post offers different techniques for teaching spelling to students with learning disabilities, along with a list of resources and references.

Tools for Learning to Spell

Now that you know the history behind standardized English spelling and some of the basic rules, it's time to put theory into practice. Check out the following methods and resources for learning to spell, from mnemonic techniques to the most effective apps and computer programs.

Mnemonic Techniques

Patterns or associations that serve as a memory aid can solidify your spelling recall. They are particularly helpful when it comes to remembering words with odd or unusual spellings.

"What Are Spelling Mnemonics?" (EduBlox Online Tutor)

In this post, Edublox explains spelling mnemonics and offers examples of helpful spelling mnemonic devices. For example, you might use the word RAVEN (Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun) to remember when to use "affect" and when to use "effect."

"1 Minute Spelling Strategy: Mnemonics!" (YouTube)

This brief video from Nessy offers an animated one-minute spelling strategy on mnemonic devices, helping to illustrate the process.

"Top 20 Spelling Mnemonics" (ThoughtCo)

ThoughtCo. has aggregated a list of some popular and noteworthy spelling mnemonics, such as "a new environment will iron me out" and "an island is land surrounded by water."

"The Handiest Mnemonics to Help Kids Learn to Spell" (Dummies)

In this article, Tracey Wood shares some key mnemonic devices for commonly misspelled words. You can remember how to spell "necessary," for example, with the phrase "one cap, two socks."

Apps and Software for Learning to Spell

"Sitton Spelling and Word Skills" (EPS Literacy)

The Sitton program provides Common Core aligned materials, including practice books and posters, for students in kindergarten through fourth grade and up. 

"16 Best Spelling Apps for Kids" (Today's Parent)

Today's Parent offers this slide-show post, which lists 16 of the best spelling apps to help children develop their spelling skills. Check out Avokiddo Ride ABC, Ladybird, and more.

"Spelling Apps" (Common Sense Media)

Common Sense Media has aggregated a large list of spelling apps for kids. You can search by age range, from preschoolers to teens aged thirteen and up.

"Literacy Apps: Spelling" (Reading Rockets)

In this post, the national multimedia literacy initiative Reading Rockets lists apps for learning spelling. (Note: while some of these apps are free, some of them require a one-time purchase.)

Spell Checking Software

While you don't want to rely on spell checkers as your primary spelling tool, it's always a good idea to double-check what you've written. Even the best spellers will want to use this software to prevent unnecessary errors. 

Grammarly

Grammarly is a free writing-enhancement platform that looks for errors in your typed work online, or in word processing programs like Microsoft Word. (Note: its more "robust" version requires a paid subscription)

WhiteSmoke

WhiteSmoke offers spell check solutions across web platforms and software programs. They'll help you ensure that "everything you type is effective, crystal-clear, and error-free." (Note: Like Grammarly, WhiteSmoke's advanced version requires a paid subscription.)

Ginger

Ginger is an app that provides spell checking in context. The company that developed it is an Israeli start-up whose programs use statistical algorithms and natural language processing to improve your writing.

ProWriting Aid

This editing tool provides immediate, corrective feedback. In addition to spell checking, it offers suggestions for style improvements.

How to Improve Your Spelling

If you feel confident with the basic rules of spelling and are getting comfortable navigating the spelling tools above, try assessing your ability with the resources below. With the help of the following exercises, you can improve your spelling even more and begin expanding your vocabulary. 

How to Assess Your Spelling Proficiency

"Spell It" Quiz (Merriam-Webster)

The creators of the trustworthy Merriam-Webster Dictionary offer this quiz, which will help you determine your spelling speed and accuracy.

"Spelling Ability Test" (Spellzone)

Spellzone provides this quiz, which assesses your spelling skills in less than five minutes. You'll need to purchase a subscription to access most Spellzone content.

"The Phonetic Zoo Placement Test" (Institute for Excellence in Writing)

This placement test, courtesy of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, is great for kids aged nine and up. For younger students, try the site's "All About Spelling" page.

"Placement Game" (GradeSpelling)

This interactive game from the GradeSpelling program allows players to determine their spelling proficiency with tests tailored to their grade level. 

Exercises to Improve Your Spelling Proficiency

"Spelling Exercises" (Purdue OWL)

These exercises from the Purdue Online Writing Lab target common spelling mistakes to improve accuracy. Try an exercise that focuses on words ending in "ible" or "able," or one centered on "ie" and "ei" rules.

"Spelling" (English Maven)

Exercises on the English Maven site are divided by level of difficulty and into two categories: spelling by picture or spelling by definition.

"Intermediate/Advanced Exercises" (Howtospell)

This website, which has been endorsed by BBC Learning English, offers intermediate and advanced spelling exercises to stretch your abilities.

"Spelling" Quizes (Interlink Language Centers)

These quizzes, provided by an English as a second language site, are offered with and without sound and at five levels of difficulty.

How to Expand Your Vocabulary

Good spelling will help you communicate your message; good vocabulary skills will make sure that you communicate with precision. Use the following tools and tips to expand your vocabulary.

"How to Expand Your Vocabulary" (Medium)

The Medium publication Science Journal offers these 10 tips for expanding your vocabulary, from looking up every new word you hear to listening to podcasts.

"7 Mobile Apps That Will Dramatically Increase Your Vocabulary" (Inc.)

Minda Zetlin of Inc. Magazine provides a list of seven apps to help you work on your vocabulary using your smartphone, including PowerVocab and 7 Little Words.

"How to Improve Your Vocabulary" (ThoughtCo)

This post from ThoughtCo., written by an ESL teacher and trainer, suggests different methods of learning new vocabulary and offers practical learning tips.

Thesaurus.com

Consulting a thesaurus like this one will help you expand your vocabulary by providing synonyms and antonyms of words. Using  a thesaurus is a great tool for finding new ways of expressing yourself.

Advanced Spelling Exercises

"Advanced Spelling Quiz 1" (English-Zone.com)

English-Zone.com, an English as a second language "fun site," provides this multiple-choice spelling quiz to help you test your capabilities.
"Spelling Challenge" (Oxford Dictionaries)

Listen to words and spell them out with this interactive quiz from Oxford Dictionaries. Quiz levels range from "tricky" to "fiendish." 

"Difficult Spelling Test" (ESL Lounge)

This multiple-choice test from ESL Lounge is great for students of English as a second language. Head back to "quiz main page" for more challenges.

"Advanced English Spelling Quiz" (World Wide Trivia)

World Wide Trivia provides this quiz, which not only tests your spelling ability, but also asks questions about the history of spelling.

How to Participate in Spelling Bees

Have you learned the fundamentals of spelling, excelled at the intermediate level, and enjoyed challenging yourself with advanced spelling drills? Perhaps you're a candidate for a spelling bee! Here, you'll learn about the basics of spelling bees, and discover how to become a contestant in local or national contests.

Spelling Bee Basics

"Spelling Bee" (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia's entry on spelling bees will fill you in on the history and purpose of this form of competition. You'll learn how spelling competitions work in other countries, as well.

"How to Run a Spelling Bee" (Kidspot)

Amy Reiter provides a step-by-step guide to running a home spelling bee in this post. She offers tips for moving things along, reinforcing the correct spelling of each word, and more.

"Spelling Bee Words and Resources" (Spelling-words-well.com)

This post from Spelling-words-well.com compiles spelling bee word lists by grade level, and also provides links to games and other resources.

Finding, Entering, and Training for Spelling Bees

"How to Study for a Spelling Bee" (SpellingBee.com)

Scripps National Spelling Bee pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly outlines strategies for training for a spelling bee, from keeping lists of patterns to studying the roots of words.

"How to Study for District, County, Regional, and State Spelling Bees" (Hexco)

Hexco Academic (a publishing company) provides specific instructions to help you prepare for different types of bees, and offers resources to "grow your word bank."

"Spelling Bee Study Words" (YourDictionary)

YourDictionary provides a list of commonly misspelled words to learn by heart, as well as further word resources and tips to calm nerves during the preparation process.

Scripps National Spelling Bee

A major televised annual event, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has captivated the attention of audiences and spellers alike for over ninety years. Learn more about this momentous yearly event, and consider entering yourself!

"Take the Test" (SpellingBee.com)

Take the preliminary spelling test from last year's Bee to see if you would have qualified for the finals. Would you have known how to spell "culinary"? How about "subtlety"?

"Check School Enrollment Status" (SpellingBee.com)

Are you interested in competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee? Check this page to see if your school is enrolled and eligible to send students.

ScrippsBee YouTube Channel

Watch videos about books, the Bee, and the buzz surrounding the competition on this YouTube channel. It currently has over 3,500 subscribers.

Spelling Bee Podcast

The official podcast of the Scripps National Spelling Bee offers episodes in which previous champions are interviewed, and recaps of past tournaments.

Resources for Teaching Spelling

Spelling is an important skill for your students to master as they attain literacy. No matter if you're teaching the basics of spelling in pre-school or helping your high schoolers to write with greater clarity and accuracy, the resources below will make teaching spelling an engaging experience.

Interactive Spelling Classroom Activities

"35 Spelling Games for Students of All Ages" (Top Notch Teaching)

Top Notch Teaching has aggregated this list of activities for students of all grade levels, from a phonics jumping game to spelling puzzles.

"Free Spelling Worksheets" (BusyTeacher)

This collection from BusyTeacher features 248 worksheets. You'll find worksheets on homophone pairs, rhyming riddles, compound words, and much more.

"5 Spelling Games" (Education World)

These spelling activities from Education World are great for students in grades K–8, and align with national standards in applying language skills.

"Classroom Games That Incorporate Spelling" (TeachHUB)

TeachHUB provides this list of classroom games that make learning to spell fun, such as "Spelling Word Relay," "Word Jump," and many others.

Spelling Lists by Grade Level

"Grade Level Lists" (SpellingCity)

SpellingCity offers lists of spelling words appropriate for students from Kindergarten through high school. You can focus on homonyms, homophones, informational text, and more.

"Wordlists for Grades K–8" (Flocabulary)

Flocabulary features lists of spelling words organized by grade level, and also includes a list of common SAT words students should know.

"Printable Spelling Lists" (Spelling-words-well.com)

On Spelling-words-well.com, you'll find lists of words for students from first grade through ninth grade that are easy to use and ready to print.

"Spelling Worksheets" (K12 Reader)

K12 Reader offers 36-week curricula for spelling words, from the first grade level through fifth grade level. They have a separate webpage for high school spelling word programs. 

Common Core Spelling Activities

"Common Core State Standards" (Education.com)

By selecting from the English Language Arts menu at the grade level you teach (from grades K–5), you'll be able to access the spelling standards in your state for your students' level.

"Ideas for Teaching Literacy Standards for Spelling" (Spelling-words-well.com) 

This webpage provides the Common Core standards for grades K–5 alongside lesson plans to improve your students' spelling skills.

"Premade Spelling Sheets" (Commoncoresheets.com)

On this site, you can customize your search for prepared spelling sheets that meet Common Core standards. Enter a vocabulary word or type of word in the search bar to access different lists.

"Spelling Lesson" (Words With Friends EDU)

This Common Core aligned spelling lesson from Words With Friends EDU is perfect for middle or high schoolers who are familiar with the popular phone app of the same name.

Dictionaries

Your greatest resource for learning more about spelling is none other than the humble dictionary. In the digital age, the wealth of knowledge that dictionaries offer is at your fingertips. Here, you'll learn more about some dictionaries of note, and the features that make them unique.

Merriam-Webster

A popular American dictionary for over 150 years, Merriam-Webster's website offers a dictionary and thesaurus search bar, as well as a "Word of the Day" series and games. This dictionary remains especially popular for use in the elementary and middle school classroom.

Dictionary.com

An exclusively digital platform, Dictionary.com offers search engine services along with articles and videos on words and slang usages.

Oxford Dictionaries

The Oxford Dictionaries comprise a number of different dictionaries that focus on "the current language and practical usage," along with features such as a "Word of the Year" and blog. 

Oxford English Dictionary

The OED is "the definitive record of the English language," and it's the dictionary university professors in the humanities will likely expect to see students citing in their analytical papers. Its entries show how words and meanings have changed over time.