Hard-to-spell words from the Cornwall Business Fair

Words you can’t spell, from my Cornwall Business Fair word wall

There was a great long list of these words, more than any other section.  Here is my comprehensive list, including hints and mnemonics for how to remember some of them.

Some of these duplicate a previous post, but you may not have seen that, so that’s OK.


Stationery / Stationary – with an E refers to lEtters & Envelopes, with an A refers to pArked cArs.

Principal / principle – the Principal is your pal, apparently.

License / licence, practise / practice, and advise / advice all follow the same rule – S for the verb, c for the noun. So you need a paper licence (noun) to practise (verb) medicine. The trick to remembering which way round it is, is that advice and advise sound different, so you can put one of those into your sentence for a minute, and then track back to practice or licence.

Affect / effect – there’s a mnemonic for this – RAVEN – Remember Affect – Verb, Effect – Noun. ‘Affect’ meaning to make a difference to – ‘the changes will affect everyone’. ‘Effect’ meaning a result – ‘the effects of the changes will be…’.

Except / accept – I would accept your excuse, except for the part about losing your watch. Except is about exceptions.

Complement / compliment – Compliment with an i is nIce: ‘that’s a lovely hat’, or ‘with compliments’, and complimentary with an i giving praise, or being free of charge. Complement with an e means ‘goes togethEr with’, eg ‘the wine complements the beef nicely’. So complementary medicine, means ‘goes together with regular medicine’ so it has an e.


the word 'spelling' written on a blackboardWords which you know you should have got the hang of at school!

Your and you’re – if ‘you are’ fits in the sentence, then it’s ‘you’re’. ‘Your’ is possessive, so if it’s ‘the cat belonging to you’, then it’s ‘your cat’. If you think you are a cat, that’s different, truly you’re not!

They’re, their and there. There is a place, like here. Their is plural possessive, so the cat belonging to Mr & Mrs Jones is their cat. If Mr and Mrs Jones are away, they are not here, so it’s ‘they’re’.

Would of, could of, should of, instead of would have, etc.  The spoken form sounds like ‘would of’, but is in fact ‘would’ve’, short for ‘would have’, which can confuse people.


Words which are just plain awkward

Accommodation – two ccs and two mms. You can help yourself to remember this by wondering if the place is large enough to accommodate two cs and two ms.

Necessary – c & ss – one collar, two sleeves

Diarrhoea – Diners In A Rubbish Restaurant Hurry Or Else Accidents! (this has to be my favourite mnemonic!)

Consensus – only has a C at the beginning.

Mellifluous – has a double l.

Available, restaurant, uncertainty, recipe, are ‘blind spot’ words, together with the name Michael. Personal bug bears for individuals. Also another common one in spoken English – ‘pacifically’ for ‘specifically’. (I can see a whole post coming on on errors in spoken English…)

Receipt, and other ie and ei words. There is a rule:

I before E except after C or when sounding like AY as in neighbour and weigh.

The alternative rule covers similar ground:

I before E except after C when the sound is eee.

There are exceptions, whichever way you remember it – words like either, neither, caffeine, codeine, counterfeit, foreign, forfeit, height, leisure, protein, their, weird, seize, seizure – though for some of these the pronunciation is eee – or can be, depending on which part of the world you come from! Neether or nyther for instance. Unfortunately, you just have to learn the exceptions… sorry!

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