In your native language, do you spell words exactly like you pronounce them?
If this is the case, then spelling in English may seem tricky at first.
However, good spelling is very important if you want to make a good impression when writing for business—and we know you want to do that!
Sure, sometimes you can use spell check to help you. But what do you do when you can’t use spell check?
What if you have to spell in real time and have no access to your computer?
What if you need to take exams? In exams of English proficiency, correct spelling is essential.
The good news is that most of the time spelling in English isn’t random. There are some rules you can learn to help with spelling! So instead of learning thousands of separate, correctly spelled words, you can learn a few rules to help you with a lot of them! How’s that for a shortcut?
First, have a look at the steps we recommend for learning correct spelling. These are like tools you can use with all words. Then read the nine spelling rules that follow. Each rule has some examples which you might come across when writing for business. At the end of the post you can find an exercise to help you test your spelling, and there’s also an answer key so that you can check your answers.
How to Learn Correct English Spelling
1. When you learn new words, write them down a few times
Spelling is a visual thing. You need to be able to visualize which letters will create the right sounds. The best way to visualize them is to practice writing them—as many times as possible!
Practice makes perfect.
If you’re trying to remember a spelling, write down a few possible ways to spell the word. Thanks to your previous practice, your brain should easily pick out which spelling is correct. This trick can help you a lot when you’re in an exam and you’re not sure how to spell a word. Write it down a few times in all the variants you can think of, and then decide which one looks better.
2. Use spell check, or have a teacher/native speaker give you feedback
Either of these options will help you correct your own mistakes.
First, try to have a native English speaker look at your writing. If you don’t have a teacher, friend or colleague to help you, try posting your writing on italki. Native speakers will read your writing and give you feedback there!
Spellcheck.net shows you all the spelling mistakes in your text and can be used for a lot of different languages, while the spell checker on jspell.com gives you the misspelled words and the option of tweeting or printing your text. If you don’t have a teacher or a native speaker who can look at your work, all you need to do is copy and paste your text in the space provided on these sites.
3. Write down the correct spellings of your “favorite mistakes” on Post-it notes around your desk
Are there certain words you always spell wrong? These are your new “favorite mistakes.” Write the correct spellings on sticky notes and decorate your desk with them.
You’ll see these words spelled properly all the time now, and this will help you remember the correct spellings of the words you misspell frequently. You can post them wherever you know you’ll notice them more often.
4. Have a look at the spelling rules in this post
Learning these rules will prove really helpful, because they’re great shortcuts to correct spelling.
Try learning one new rule every day and then recap the rules from the previous days.
5. Do spelling tests online and the exercise at the end of this post
When you have finished learning all the rules, test yourself! Here are a few online spelling exercises and there’s one at the end of this post as well.
6. Tips for written exams
Good spelling is extremely important in exams because it can have an impact on your grade. After you did your best with learning rules and doing spelling tests, the best you can do in an exam is prove your strengths and avoid showing weaknesses!
So whenever you aren’t sure how to spell a word, try writing it down a few times. If you still can’t decide, it’s best to avoid using that word! Use a synonym instead.
For example, if you aren’t sure about how many times to use s in the word assistant, maybe you can use secretary instead. The good thing about written exams is that nobody tells you what words to use, so use the ones you can spell right!
Of course, this trick only works if you’ve done your part with learning the spelling rules.
9 Quick Business Spelling Tricks for the Busy Learner
1. Y to IES
Rule: When the word ends in consonant + y, adding s (to form the plural in nouns or to form the third person singular in verbs) gives you your word ending in consonant + ies.
Responsibility +s → responsibilities
Opportunity +s → opportunities
Company + s → companies
Try+ s → tries
If the word ends in vowel + y, you just add –s and nothing else changes.
Delay +s → delays
Play +s → plays
2. Doubling the last consonant
Rule: If the word has one syllable (put, stop, get) and it ends in a vowel + consonant, we double the consonant when adding -ing, -ed, -er or other suffixes (word parts that come at the end of our word) like -ence, -est.
The same thing happens if the word is longer than one syllable but the stress is on the last syllable. You need to read the word out loud or “read it” in your head if you’re in an exam to see where the stress goes.
For example, refer has two syllables, but the stress is on the last one—you say the second syllable fer more strongly. Refer also ends in vowel + consonant (er), so the rule applies.
Meanwhile, develop doesn’t have the stress on the last syllable—you pronounce the second syllable vel more strongly—so the rule doesn’t apply.
Recommend has the stress on the last syllable, but it doesn’t end in vowel + consonant (it ends in consonant + consonant, nd), so the rule doesn’t apply.
Spot → spotted, spotting
Big → bigger, biggest
Occur → occurred, occurrence
Begin → beginning, beginner
3. Dropping the final –e
Rule: If the word ends in –e and we add a suffix beginning with a vowel (-ing, -ed, -ance, –ible, etc.), e is dropped.
Write → writing
Hope → hoping
Sense → sensible
The exception is for words ending in –ce or –ge when adding -able or -ous.
Manage → manageable
Notice → noticeable
Enforce → enforceable
Outrage → outrageous
4. Y to I when adding suffixes (–ful, -er, -est)
Rule: If the word ends in consonant + y, then the y changes to i when adding suffixes (-ful, -er, -est).
Plenty → plentiful
Ready → readily
Carry → carrier
Rule: For words ending in consonant + y, keep the y when adding suffixes beginning with i (-ing).
Apply → applied (exception for adding –ing: applying)
Certify → certified (exception for adding –ing: certifying)
5. Words ending in –ful and adding –ly
Rule: If a word ends in –ful, when we add -ly to create an adverb or adjective, we get the ending -fully.
Truthful → truthfully
Thankful → thankfully
Harmful → harmfully
6. Q is followed by u
Rule: In words containing q, the letter q is followed by u. The exception is for Arabic words you’re probably not going to use a lot (like faqir or qadis).
7. Using capital letters
Rule: Words are spelled with a capital letter when they’re names of people, places, days of the week, months and names of languages and nationalities.
We use capital letters for main words (but not connecting words like a, an, the, for) in titles (organizations, books, films). We also use capital letters at the beginnings of sentences and in abbreviations.
It’s important to use capital words in emails and text messages, even though sometimes people can be lazy and forget about them.
Mr. Smith (name of a person)
Europe, Germany (name of a place)
European (word related to a place)
Monday (day of the week)
Romanian (language and nationality)
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (title of an organization)
“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” (title of a book)
They launched a new product. (sentence)
8. Remember common American and British spelling differences
Most of the rules about these differences can be summed up as American spelling being simpler and more intuitive than British spelling. Still, it’s better to remember the most common examples to avoid mistakes when writing exclusively to British or American people.
Rule: Words ending in –re in British English often end in –er in American English.
Centre → Center
Meagre → Meager
Spectre → Specter
Rule: Words ending in –our in British English often end in –or in American English.
Colour → Color
Favour → Favor
Rumour → Rumor
Behaviour → Behavior
Rule: Words ending in –ise or –ize (also –yze or –yse) in British English often end in –ize (-yze) in American English.
Organise → Organize
Analyse → Analyze
Maximise → Maximize
Rule: When adding suffixes that begin with a vowel to words that end in vowel + –l, you’ll sometimes double the –l in British English . The –l isn’t usually doubled in this situation in American English.
Travelled → Traveled
Travelling → Traveling
Be careful, though: This rule doesn’t always work. For example, “skilful” is more common in British English, and “skillful” is more common in American English.
9. Master the most commonly misspelled words in business
We’re just going to give you the correct version of the most commonly misspelled words here.
It’s best to avoid seeing misspelled words so that your brain doesn’t remember the incorrect versions by mistake!
Exercise with Commonly Misspelled Words
Choose the correct spelling of each word.
- a. delays b. delais
- a. difficultyes b. difficulties
- a. referring b. refering
- a. developed b. developped
- a. closeing b. closing
- a. courageous b. couragous
- a. reccomend b. recommend c. reccommend
- a. accommodate b. accomodate c. acommodate
- a. defyed b. defied
- a. truelly b. truly c. truely
- a. neglectfully b. neglectfuly
- a. require b. recquire c. reqire
Answers for exercise:
1. a, 2. b, 3. a, 4. a, 5. b, 6. a, 7. b, 8. a , 9. b, 10. b, 11. a, 12. a.
Now that you’ve checked your answers, don’t forget to keep up the good work!
Return to the list of six study steps and to the nine rules whenever you’re in doubt and remember.
Good spelling creates a good impression!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.