Spelling Bee Final Spotlights Skills, But We Still Have a Lot to Learn

The 94th Scripps National Spelling Bee took the U.S. by storm, with the San Antonio-born winner, Harini Logan, spelling a staggering 22 words correctly in only 90 seconds.

This year’s competition took place at National Harbour, Maryland. The televised event asked the contestants to spell a broad range of words with varying difficulty levels. The contestants took part in the first-ever “spell-off” before Harini Logan, 14, emerged as the champion.

“Scyllarian,” “connaraceous,” and “pyrrolidone” were just some of the rare words that made headlines at the event, and the spellers wowed the judges and the audience with their showstopping abilities.

Despite the exceptional display of young talent partaking in the Spelling Bee, we know that there are many Americans still struggling to properly spell “every,” “which,” and “their.” Avery or every? Which, witch or wich? Their, there, or they’re? You get the idea.

Google Trends recently analyzed the “how do you spell” trending phrase by U.S. states in 2022 and found the top terms that each state struggled with spelling.

Here are the most common misspelled terms in the U.S. in 2022, from shortest to longest:

  1. Gray (x2)
  2. Lose
  3. Choir
  4. Sorry
  5. Again
  6. Prank
  7. Little
  8. Their
  9. Tokyo
  10. Kauai
  11. Cousin
  12. Choice
  13. Months
  14. Normal
  15. Tomato
  16. Cheese
  17. Autumn
  18. Awesome
  19. Awkward
  20. Seizure
  21. Bologna
  22. Dessert
  23. Therapy
  24. College
  25. Picture
  26. Actively
  27. Princess
  28. Business
  29. Exercise
  30. Separate
  31. Bearable
  32. Daughter
  33. Thousand
  34. Schedule
  35. Listening
  36. Beautiful (x2)
  37. Impatience
  38. Pneumonia
  39. Scientist
  40. Paparazzi
  41. Experience
  42. Federation
  43. Beautifully
  44. Boutonniere
  45. Independent
  46. Anniversary
  47. Multiplication
  48. Reimbursement
  49. West Virginia

While the National Spelling Bee improves the self-esteem of the spellers themselves, it apparently does little for the rest of us. So what makes them such great spellers?

Spelling Misconceptions

Spelling is not about “looking.” Many avid readers say they can’t spell. Even Michael Morpurgo has admitted that his young grandson is a better speller than him.

Spelling is not about “hearing.” While some words can be spelled by ear, many words we learn as children cannot be sounded out. Take, for example, words like “laugh,” “friend,” and “enough.”

Learn To Spell Tips

Here are some tips we can learn from the Spelling Bee.

Understand The Meaning Of The Word

National Spelling Bee contestants often figure out intricate spellings by hearing the word in a sentence and the definition.

Learning a long string of letters is painful if we don’t understand the word itself. If there is no meaning and analysis of how the word is constructed, then we might as well try to remember Google suggested passwords instead.

When we hear the meaning of the word, we may be able to break up the meaningful part of the words. For example, to spell “talked,” there are two morphemes- “talk” and “ed.” We know to form the past tense, we need “ed.”

When we hear an example sentence with the word, we can learn what kind of word it is and how it functions.

Understanding The Origin Of The Word

English words aren’t always spelled the way they sound. Our Americanized idiom has a deep history of words and spellings originating from languages such as Latin and Greek.

Finding out the word’s origin can help the contestants decide which letters are more likely to represent the sounds they hear.

For example, the letter ‘x’ in Latin is often pronounced as ‘gz,’ as in “exuberant.” In Greek, the short ‘i’ sound is often spelled with a ‘y,’ as in “cryptic.”

Words are like pieces of code that we can figure out. When you figure out one word, it can help you solve another.

Hard Work And Practice

The National Spelling Bee is highly competitive, and it is not just about remembering a random list of words to get a coveted spot in the final.

Tenacious students studied and worked tirelessly before the competition. With thousands of potential words, there is no way for the students to memorize all the potential terms and spellings. Instead, they rely on their abilities and knowledge of spelling rules, word formation, and etymology (the origin of words).

The Bottom Line

Good spelling is useful, even if we never need to spell “moorhen” like Harini Logan. While a good speller is desirable, a poor speller is not a failure. There is an opportunity to grow in this area by truly understanding words and their significant parts.

And if we still don’t know what we are doing, Google Trends will be sure to let us know in next year’s most common misspelled words.

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This post was produced by TPR Teaching and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: Alex Brandon, Associated Press


Caitriona is a private language tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. Caitriona has been teaching the English language since 2016. She has taught in schools in Spain and the U.K., and she currently teaches online. On her blog, you will find tons of English language articles, worksheets, resources, tips, and advice for learners and teachers.