In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of spelling tips we will be looking at some of the most commonly misspelled words in English and suggesting ways to improve your spelling.
People looking in Macmillan Dictionary for the noun and verb wreck often mistakenly search for *reck. They have fallen foul of the silent ‘w’, a common feature of words in English that have a Germanic origin. As Michael Rundell explains in his Spelling guide, until about 500 years ago the spellings of Germanic words matched the sounds: so you would have heard the ‘w’ in words like wreck, wrist and wrote. Now that the letter is silent, there’s no way of knowing that it’s there just from the pronunciation.
There are quite a few words starting with wr- in English: Macmillan Dictionary has over 70 entries, and most of them are everyday words like write, wrong, wrap, and of course wreck. Although spelling reformers periodically suggest removing the silent letters in order to simplify English spelling, that is unlikely to happen; as is so often the case, these spellings just have to be learned.
You can find some information on why English spelling is so difficult, as well as helpful tips on mastering it here. You can search for other posts in this series using the tag ‘spelling tips’.
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