You want to be a strong communicator. You’d like to use the best word in a given situation. But, sometimes, that word is really hard to spell. (And since autocorrect loves to play games, your safest best is to know how to write it out for yourself.)

Everyone’s been there. Whether it’s because a word isn’t spelled like it sounds (or doesn’t sound like it’s spelled), certain words are particularly tricky. So, we figured we’d gather some of the worst offenders all in one place—with reminders on how to spell them correctly—so you’d have a quick-reference list.

And really—no guilt! This list was compiled by a group of professional writers and editors.


1. Miscellaneous

Remember, the abbreviation of this word is “misc.” (Just write that if you can’t remember the vowel order for the rest.)


2. Definitely

There is no “a” in this word—that’s a definite.


3. Separate

Separate, on the other hand has two “a’s” and just two “e’s.” If you can remember that, odds are you’ll get the order right.


4. Niece

“I before e” except after “c.” (Coming before “c” is not included in the exception.)


5. Caffeine

OK, caffeine seems like a bogus exception, because the “ie” is so far after the “c.” The only solution is more coffee.


6. Restaurant

The “au” go together.


7. Plateau

The “eau” go together and say “o.” (Thank you, middle school French!)


8. Bureaucracy

Same as plateau.


9. Hors D'oeuvres

I took French in high school, too, and still have trouble spelling this. Truth talk: I usually just write appetizers and call it a day.


10. Entrepreneur

Yes, anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur should probably learn how to spell it (think: four “e’s” and one “u”).


11. Apparently

It would be great if every vowel in this word was an “a.” Alas, the last vowel is an “e.”


12. Judgment

Judge has an “e” after the “dg,” but judgment doesn’t. [Insert joke about not judging people for misspelling this word here.]


13. Privilege

There’s no “d” in privilege (which is totally unfair because the last half of the word sounds like “ledge”).


14. Assist

Maybe I’m the only one who hesitates when I type because this words starts with “ass” (the only other one I can think of is “assume,” and that comes with a handy little saying). However, that doesn’t change the fact that two “s’s” come after the “a,” and only one comes after the “i.”


15. Conscience

Think: Three “c’s” and one “s.”


16. Occasion

This word has two “c’s” and one “s.” (If there’s no spellcheck handy, just go with event or function.)


17. License

The “c” comes first and the “s” comes second, just like the alphabet.


18. Exercise

I don’t know what’s harder: spelling exercise correctly (no “c” until the after the “r!”) or making the time to do it.


19. Recommend

Remember: One “c” and two “m’s.”


20. Disappoint

This word has one “s” and two “p’s.” Just think of words that start with “dis” (e.g. dislike and dismay) to remember there’s only one “s.”


21. Likable

For this one, I had to consult Grammarist, which explains, “For the adjective meaning pleasant or attractive, writers from outside North America generally use likeable. Likable—without the first e—is the preferred spelling in U.S. English.” So, if you’re stateside, drop the first “e.”


22. Hindrance

According to Dictionary.com, hinderance is “early form of hindrance.” If you’re going to get old-school, why not go all the way to “hinderaunce”, which is apparently what they said in the early 15th century.



Unless you spent your youth spelling words on ESPN, there are going to be a few that trip you up from time to time. (Even the word “misspell” can be hard to remember!) So, if you’re writing something really important, remember there’s no shame in looking it up—and using spellcheck!

See any words I missed? Tweet me at grabalatte.


Photo of writer thinking courtesy of Shutterstock.