This site presents the whole range of
English reading and spelling problems.
It shows why so many learners of English have difficulties with reading and writing.
Teachers may download the various word
lists for classroom use.
Those wishing to reproduce material from this site commercially must obtain prior permission from the author firstname.lastname@example.org
The average English-speaking child takes nearly three times longer to learn the basics of reading and writing than users of other alphabetic writing systems (Seymour, British Journal of Psychology, 2003). Numerous surveys in Anglophone countries during the past five decades have established that nearly half of all English speakers have severe difficulties with writing. One in five cannot even read properly, as was confirmed in 2005 by the UK's House of Commons Select Committee for Education.
Learning to read and write English is exceptionally difficult.
Learning to read English is
difficult because identical letter strings often have
different pronunciations, for example,
on once - only - woman women worry
[wunce] [oanly] [wooman] [wimmen] [wurry]
Learning to spell is even harder
because different spellings for identical English sounds
are twice as common as different pronunciations for identical letters.
The EE-sound and OO-sound, for example, can be spelt as:
peep - leap, people, here, weird, chief, police, me, ski, key;
food - rude, shrewd, truth, group, move, fruit, tomb, through, blue, shoe.
The English writing
system is uniquely difficult because it has spelling and reading
Other difficult alphabetic systems have only spelling problems.
To become even just
moderately competent spellers of English, learners have to memorise at least
3700 words with some unpredictable spellings
(listed on the different pages of this website).
A little more than half of all English spelling
difficulties are caused by four problems:
unsystematic consonant doubling like 'shoddy - body' and unpredictable spellings for the
EE-sound, the long O -sound and the two OO-sounds.
serious spelling problems are caused by unpredictable spellings for
Ur / er / ir, Au / aw, S, Sh and the unstressed half-vowel in endings (like
er / -or / -ar or en / -on / -an).
No other European language has more than 1000 unpredictable spellings
The word lists of irregular spellings are
also available as a 56-page booklet,
listed in order of the spelling patterns which they disobey,
'Rules and Exceptions of English Spelling' (Masha Bell 2009).