Tricky words in English, a guide to master them all

Crack the code of complex vocabularies ! Elevate your language skills, conquer pronunciation challenges and become a tricky words master.

Mastering Tricky Words in English

When it comes to vocabulary, there is no escaping the tricky words. Some of them are common words that you use every day, yet people are still struggling to spell them correctly. To be fair, there’s a reason why they’re called as tricky.

What Counts as Tricky Words

Each person has different ideas on what is tricky for them. However, the most common culprits of difficult words are homonyms, homophones, and words with multiple consonants and vowels.
To many people, the longer the word is the more difficult it is. And that is a fair assessment, especially if English is their second language.

Anyhow, the first thing you need to do is to identify what counts as tricky words for you. Then you can move on to practicing these words to avoid being in a sticky situation. When you already know the key to mastering these words, you can confidently write them down and not be the victim of some cheap jokes.

Homonyms and Homophones

Most adults have issues with homonyms and homophones even though they are a good source of some bad jokes. The problem lies in how they sound very much alike, which is the main reason why they are called homonyms.

When there are two or more words have the same spelling or pronunciation, yet they have very different meanings, then they are homonyms.
Some examples of homonyms are

knead and need
knew and new
knight and night
ship and sheep

and many others.

On the other hand, homophones are two or more words with the same pronunciation but with very different meanings.
Some examples are whole and hole, ground and ground, cell and sell, ate and eight.

Since homonyms and homophones can be fun when there are some misinterpretations, many authors use these tricky words in their works.
One of the most popular examples is the snippet from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll.

Alice sat between the Red and White Queen when they bombarded her with questions about how to make bread.
Alice explained that they needed flour, which the Red Queen took as flowers and asked where to pick them.
Alice had to explain that flour is ground wheat, but the White Queen interrupted her and asked how many acres of ground.

The exchange between Alice and the two Queens are perfect example of homonyms and homophones:

Flour and flower are homonyms. While the ground as in breaking into small pieces sounds exactly like ground as in the land, which makes it a homophone.

How to differentiate homonyms from homophones

The spelling is the primary distinction between these two. Almost all homophone words are homonyms, but you can’t say the same about the other. Anyhow, you don’t have to worry about differentiating homonyms and homophones. Instead, you should focus on getting the right meaning based on context and assume less.

Multiple Consonants And Vowels

There are words that easy to say yet difficult to spell correctly. Take a look at “buoy” for a moment. Most people will only write it as “boy” based on how it sounds. We can assure you that even American English still requires the “u” in the word.

It’s easy to dismiss these words and think they’re just regulars and far from being tricky. But if you’re not careful, you can make some embarrassing mistakes by misspelling the easy word.

Take a look at these words with multiple consonants and vowels:

  • Curious
  • Conspicuous
  • Consciousness
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Maneuver
  • Nervous
  • Bureaucracy
  • Accommodate
  • Aisle

These words are fairly common and you sure have heard and read them somewhere. Aisle is common in a supermarket, and everyone is always curious about something.

But despite being common, they are tricky to write down. You are likely to miss one or two consonants here and there. You also may have them in the wrong order. And as you know, it spells bad luck when you play Scrabble or are in a spelling bee contest.

How to Master Them

So how you can master the tricky words? They are difficult and frustrating to work with. It’s close to impossible to memorize them all, and you can’t use the spell checker all the time. Here is how you can get the words right. So you can say goodbye to some simple mistakes from misspelling some words.

Context is key for homonyms and homophones.

Mastering words that sound alike yet very different means relying on the context. You need to focus on the context you have and make as little assumption as possible. This way, you can tell which word they are using. In a conversation, knowing the context is essential to keep the talk going. With easier communication, there is less distance to get your point across.

Use Mnemonics

As for words with multiple vowels or consonants, you can use the mnemonics technique. This learning method uses other things to improve your memory. For example, when you use your knuckles to see how many days in a month, you are learning and doing mnemonics. Several spelling bee champions use mnemonics to improve their memory.

In a way, acronyms and organization names count as mnemonics since they aid everyone in memorizing what the organization stands for. However, for memorizing words, you can use image or visualization mnemonics.
For the word “buoy” which means “a floating device”, you can picture a small ship with the b as the head and y as the paddle. The best thing about mnemonics is you can develop the imagery that works best for you. There is no right or wrong as long as you are keeping the meaning intact.

So remember this, when you need to knead the flour to have a flower bread, make sure that you herd the sheep inside the barn especially when you have heard the ship from afar.

These tricky words may be challenging at first, but they are not as difficult as you initially thought. Once you have understood the context, you can say the right words and avoid any misunderstanding. Even better, you can be more confident in having a high score on the spelling bee.