An Analysis Of English Common Spelling Errors

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

An Analysis Of English Common Spelling Errors


This project begins with the identification of the Importance of Competence in English Usage to the nation’s Standard of Education. It therefore sets out to examine the analysis of the English spelling error, by looking into the History of English Spelling as well as the sources of these errors. The research work also identified that inconsistencies in the language at times can cause these common mistakes that we make in English. It’s been observed by all writers on the English language that the orthography or spelling of words is very irregular; the same letters often representing different sounds and the same sound often expressed by different letters. This project provides a theoretical assessment of English spelling error analysis, models for spelling error and then look into the sources of errors. The paper concluded by offering suggested ways to avoid spelling mistakes and give examples of the common spelling errors in their different spelling patterns.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

Spelling is the writing of one or more words with letters and diacritics. In addition, the term often, but not always, means an accepted standard spelling or the process of naming the letters. Spelling attempt to transcribe the sounds of the language into alphabetic letters. Pronunciation changes over time in all languages and spelling reforms are irregular in most languages and rare in some. In addition, words from other languages may be adapted to the spelling system, non-standard spellings are often adopted after extensive common usage.

Spelling is a challenge. We all make mistakes when attempting to learn spelling. The process of skill development that is learning something new involves making errors. Some errors are random and the result of memory lapses, distractions, carelessness, fatigues or inadvertent mistakes.

These errors occur irregularly and are usually self-detected and self- corrected. These are among the kinds of errors novice practitioner make.

Many spelling errors however are not random or careless but under error analysis.

1.1 Background of the Study

Though, many people would agree that there is an observable fall in the standard of Education in Nigeria, but nobody in his widest imagination would have believed that University Education in Nigeria has fallen to an abysmally low level as a World Bank study came up with a report that University Education in Nigeria has degenerated in the past fifteen to sixteen years.

The shocking news which was reported in one of the lead headlines in the Guardian, one of the Nigeria’s major daily Newspapers was published on the 19th of February, 2001. The screaming headline read:

“World Bank report scores Nigerian Graduates Low”.

The Guardian Newspaper quoted the World Bank that “Nigerian University graduates are poor in their usage of English Language which includes spelling errors and they are unproductive on the job”.

“Graduates skills have steadily deteriorated over the past decades” (p.l). According to the report, the poor performance of Nigerian graduates is particularly evident in two areas; poor mastery of the English Language both in the written and oral and then also evident in the lack of requisite technical skill. It was ascertained in the report that the deficiencies in both vital areas Nigerian graduates of the past fifteen years unfit for the labour market and sometimes the larger society.

Shortcomings were particularly observed in oral and written communication. The study also indicated that a serious disconnection exists between university training and the needs of the labour market. Though, the study may have identified major areas of the decline in the University Education but the actual problem may have its root at the secondary school level.

At the secondary school level, the potential undergraduate is given adequate foundation in the use of English. In our secondary schools, there are lots of English Language misspellings as well as wrong pronunciation of words. This has really been a major concern and setbacks for the Teachers of English Language in Nigeria Secondary Schools.

The teaching of spelling in Nigeria secondary school is always a challenge, because so many of this students find it difficult to spell correctly due to one thing or the other, which will be the main focus of this project work. Teachers are perplexed when students spell words correctly on weekly test and misspell the same words as well as easier more common words.

Like reading, spelling is a written language skills that draws upon individuals repertoire of linguistic knowledge including phonological awareness. A mastery of written and spoken English is highly desirable to help our fallen educational standard in this country.

In Nigeria, English Language serves as an official language, a means of communication that is rule governed. Every language has a structure different from another. Each language of the world for example has certain regular system of pronunciation, certain regular word order and certain regular sentence pattern. English Language for example, permits consonant cluster both initially and finally while other languages does not permit it.

English Language is a standard language, because it is accepted in the country as a means of interacting formally. Therefore, every students of this country is not restricted to the standard usage of the language.

According to Kachuru 1986:1,

“Competence in English and the use of this language signify a transmutation, an added potential for material and social gain and advantages. One sees this attitude in what the symbol stand for; English is considered a symbol of modernization and an extra arm of success and mobility in culturally and linguistically complex and pluralistic society”.

In Nigeria, English enjoys a wider geographical spread than any of the indigenous language. Whatever, the language of discussion, a serious business transaction is sealed up in writing in English. The same goes for political campaigns which can be in the language of immediate environment, but manifestos and other documents are produced in English. English Language in Nigeria is a language of Education, Publication and it is a language of Government. It is used for thinking and widening our perception of life. It aids the cohesive political community; it serves in the expression and development of Nigeria’s personality.

It is the medium of diplomacy and national relationship and it socially makes you feel at home in any part of the world. All these show there is the need for competence in the usage of English Language.

This research work will be looking at “The Common English Spelling Errors”. English spelling error analysis is a type of linguistic analysis that focuses on the errors learners make. The investigation of errors can be at the same time diagnostic and prognostic. It is diagnostic because it can tell us the learners state of language at a given point during the learning process and prognostic because it can tell that language learning materials need to reorient on the basis of the learners current problems .

Learners error during the foreign language learning has always been concerned and argued about by linguist and foreign teachers from the ancient time. The most distinguishing difference between the foreign language learners and the native speakers lie in their English vocabulary size, therefore lexicon learning is attached more and more importance.

This research will be based on the analysis of errors and the patterns in spelling. Samples of spelling errors will also be provided as well as the psychological analysis of spelling errors.

1.2 Statement of Problems

In analyzing the common spelling errors in English Language, there is the need to identify the major cause of these errors.

In the course of this project, the following problems will be highlighted;

  1. The problem of the ‘ough’ words.
  2. The effect of memory in spelling irregularities.
  3. The negative effects of anxiety while spelling.
  4. The problem of spelling patterns.

1.3 Aim of the Study

The aim of this project is to provide a theoretical assessment of English spelling error analysis, models for spelling error analysis and then to look into the sources of errors.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The significant of the study will be drawn as we progress in the course of this project work.

1.5 Research Questions

In the course of this project work, the following questions will be addressed.

  1. What is the effect of spelling errors in the study of English language?
  2. To what extent does spelling errors affect the learning and teaching of English language?
  3. What is the source of English language spelling error?
  4. What can be done to avoid English spelling errors?

1.6 Scope of the Study

The scope of this study will be confined to the common English spelling errors, starting from the word origin.

1.7 Limitation of the Study

This study can be limited by time, financial constraint and non-availability of data etc.

1.8 Definition of Terms

Different terms used in the course of this research work are hereby defined as follows:


Occurs when a person attaches two or more words together to make them one word. The meanings of the words interrelate in such a way that a new meaning comes out which is very different from the meanings of the words in isolation.


Is the formation of a new word or inflectable stem from another word or stem. It typically occurs by the addition of an affix. The derived word is often of a different word class from the original. It may thus take the inflectional affixes of the new word class.


One who argues in favor of something


A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.

Psycho Linguistics or Psychology Of Language:

Is the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use, comprehend and produce language.


The invention of new words or phrases.


Is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. Diacritic is both an adjective and a noun, whereas diacritical is only an adjective. Diacritical marks may appear above or below a letter, or in some other position such as within the letter or between two letters.

Spelling Errors:

These are the errors we make when attempting to learn spelling. The process of skill development that is learning something new involves making errors. These errors occur irregularly and are usually self-detected and self-corrected.


These are words which sound the same but are spelled differently.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Conclusion

In this study, our focus on an analysis of English common spelling errors using selected secondary schools in Ethiope East Local Government, Delta State. The study specifically was aimed at providing a theoretical assessment of English spelling error analysis, models for spelling error analysis and then to look into the sources of errors.

The study adopted the survey research design and randomly enrolled participants in the study. A total of 180 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondent are active students from the six (6) selected secondary schools in Ethiope East Local Government, Delta State.

The findings revealed that spelling errors makes learning and teaching difficult. Also, the findings revealed that spelling errors has affected the learning and teaching of English language to a very high extent. The findings further revealed that mother tongue interference and media are among the sources of English language spelling error.

5.2 Recommendation

Based on the responses obtained, the researcher proffers the following recommendations:

  • First of all, there should be a vigorous approach to the teaching of grammar at all levels of our education system. A look at the English syllabus at the basic level confirms that subject – verb agreement (concord) as well as tenses and aspects are grammar topics that appear in the syllabus of the lower primary classes and these topics are repeated at the upper primary and also taught at the Senior High School. This means that the designers of the syllabus and policy makers of education saw the importance of grammar as far as learning English is concerned, and therefore, it is suggested that the grammar periods should be increased. Krashen (1982:10) defines language learning as, “conscious knowledge of a second language, knowing the rules, being aware of them, and being able to talk about them”. This means that the students must know the rules of the English language.
  • Secondly, students should be made to use English more often since language proficiency comes with constant practice. Therefore, the four (4) basic skills of acquiring competence in every language which are: listening, speaking, reading and writing should be emphasized and encouraged in ourschools. The school authorities should create an environment that will make it possible for students to use the English language every time.
  • Furthermore, parents and teachers should encourage students to read extensively outside their class notes since reading widely may affect writing in several ways. It will not only help students to acquire vocabulary and expression, but it will also expose them to a variety of idiomatic usages, rhetorical, structural and discourse patterns which can impact positively on their writings. Researchers are of the view that reading as a habit should be inculcated in the child during early childhood and it should be developed during adolescence and consolidated in early adulthood.
  • The Ministry of Education should also assist communities to build libraries for the schools in the rural areas so that students can get access to a lot of books and other reading materials. In places where there are no libraries, the concept of “invisible library” might be useful. This means that, each student is encouraged to obtained one story book, and after reading it s/he exchanges it for another person‟s story book. The advantage of this concept is that each student has the opportunity of reading as many books as there are students in the class.
  • In addition, students should be assisted by their teachers to improve upon their writing skills by teaching them the basics concept of revising and editing their work. Revising and editing are basic skills in the writing process, yet many language teachers do not devote much attention to them. The result is that students‟ essays are often replete with avoidable mistakes which they could have corrected themselves if they carefully took time to read throughtheir own work. It is also important that teachers of English should use the Direct Method together with the Communicative Approach of teaching and avoid the vernacular translation of English words and expressions. It would be appropriate to adopt methods that focus on fluency and writing at the basic and second cycles of our education. Another step that should be taken to tackle the falling standard of English in the country is to improve the quality of teachers who handle the subject.
  • There is the need for the teachers to demonstrate competence and confidence in the language. In this vein, teachers of English should attend refresher courses periodically because, sometimes, some of the problems students face originate from their poor teaching. Similarly, teaching and learning situations should be made as practical as possible. Therefore, teachers should give enough exercises to their students for them to practice the language.

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