Self-editing: Identifying common spelling errors

In addition to identifying common spelling errors, kids need to master often-confused words like "your" and "you're."

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

Writing can overwhelm the most rugged of students, which is why I often mention the importance of breaking the writing process into bite-size pieces. But did you know it’s equally important to make editing a step-by-step process too?

When students self-edit a story or report, they often have trouble spotting their own errors. They already think their paper is accurate and well written, which makes it hard to believe anything needs to be fixed.

Instead of trying to identify every error in a composition, perhaps the two of you can focus on just a few things at a time. When looking at spelling errors, for example, zoom in on the ones most likely to cause trouble. Here are a few tips you can suggest:

Circle Words Whose Spelling You’re Unsure About

Use a colored pencil so words are easy to spot.

Refer to a dictionary or electronic speller to double-check spelling.

Don’t rely on spell-check when typing on the computer. It isn’t always accurate.

Spell Using Whole Words

Don’t use abbreviations.

  • through, not thru
  • lightnot lite
  • okaynot OK

Don’t use text-speak.

  • you, not u
  • are, not r
  • everyone, not evry1

Check for Most Commonly Misspelled Words

Spend a few minutes reading Facebook posts and it’s soon apparent that children aren’t the only ones who have trouble remembering spelling rules!

Work regularly on often-confused words to make sure everyone knows how to use them correctly. In addition, both you and your students should watch for these errors during proofreading and editing sessions.

One word or two?

  • cannot = one word
  • a lot = two words
  • all right = two words

It’s or its?

  • it’s = it is
  • its = shows that something belongs to “it”

You’re or your?

  • you’re = you are
  • your = shows that something belongs to “you”

They’re, there, or their?

  • they’re = they are
  • there = a place or location
  • their = shows that something belongs to “them”

Loose or lose?

  • loose = when something wiggles or moves about
  • lose = fail to win; to misplace or no longer possess something

Then or than?

  • then = shows time
  • than = makes a comparison

Uncertainty about spelling is often a stumbling block to successful writing. By working together on small tasks that improve spelling, the larger task of writing may one day become less daunting. Why not start this week with some of these suggestions?

Photo: Glenn Fleishman, courtesy of Creative Commons.



  • Posted January 16, 2013


    Great list. Your text-speak made me chuckle

    See you in a couple of weeks at Beech

  • Posted January 18, 2013


    Thanks, Kerry! And looking forward to an IRL meeting!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.