Illegible vs Unreadable

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What’s the difference between them?



difficult to read because of poor writing or incorrect spelling.


1. The doctor's handwriting on the prescription was illegible, causing confusion at the pharmacy.

2. The student's essay had so many errors that it became illegible, making it challenging for the teacher to understand.

3. The faded ink made the historical document nearly illegible, requiring careful restoration.



impossible to read.


1. The ancient manuscript was so damaged that some parts had become completely unreadable over time.

2. The encryption on the confidential file was so complex that it rendered the document unreadable without the decryption key.

3. The smudged ink made the important message on the letter nearly unreadable, leading to frustration for the recipient.

Learn similar and opposite words to spot the difference




1. Unreadable

2. Indecipherable

3. Incomprehensible

4. Blurry

5. Unintelligible

1. Legible

2. Clear

3. Readable

4. Plainly written

5. Easily decipherable


1. Illegible

2. Indecipherable

3. Incomprehensible

4. Inscrutable

5. Impenetrable

1. Legible

2. Comprehensible

3. Clear

4. Lucid

5. Intelligible

Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "Illegible", "Unreadable".

1. Remember that 'illegible' refers to writing or spelling that is difficult to read.

2. 'Unreadable' means that the writing or text is impossible to read.

Check the full list of commonly confused words in English

Learn the difference

Frequently asked questions

In what situations should the first word be used?

Illegible is typically used to describe handwriting or text that is difficult to read due to poor writing or incorrect spelling. It is usually used in situations where the text is slightly distorted or unclear.

When is the appropriate context for using the second word?

Unreadable is used to describe text that is not only illegible, but completely incomprehensible or impossible to read. It can be used to describe handwriting, documents, books, or any other form of written communication.

Do the two words share the same pronunciation?

No, the two words have different pronunciations. Illegible is pronounced ih-LEJ-uh-buhl, while unreadable is pronounced uhn-REE-duh-buhl.

What are some common mistakes people make when using these words?

People often mistakenly use illegible when they mean unreadable. While both words can be used in situations where the text is unclear or incomprehensible, illegible should be used primarily to describe text that has been distorted or is slightly difficult to read. Unreadable should only be used to describe text that is completely impossible to read.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. The old manuscript was so faded that it was almost _________.

2. Her handwriting is so messy that its _________.

3. After the paper got wet, the ink smeared, making the text _________.

4. Due to poor printing quality, several pages in the book were _________.

5. The doctors prescription was criticized for being _________.

6. He tried to decipher the ancient text, but it was _________ due to wear and tear.

1. Unreadable

Explanation: The emphasis here is on the fact that the manuscript is almost impossible to read, likely due to its age and condition, not necessarily because of poor handwriting or spelling.

2. Illegible

Explanation: Handwriting is the focal point in this context, making illegible the appropriate choice as it is specifically tied to poor writing.

3. Unreadable

Explanation: The sentence describes a situation where the text becomes impossible to read due to external factors (ink smearing) rather than poor writing or incorrect spelling.

4. Unreadable

Explanation: The context points to a printing error rather than handwriting, suggesting the pages are impossible to read. Unreadable fits better in this scenario.

5. Illegible

Explanation: Doctors prescriptions are hand-written, and the context here points to the challenge of reading the handwriting, not the overall impossibility of reading it.

6. Unreadable

Explanation: The emphasis is on the text being impossible to decipher due to its condition (wear and tear) rather than specifically poor writing or incorrect spelling.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

Finding your way around the English language can be hard, especially since there are so many confusing words and rules. So, a list of the most confusing words in English is an extremely useful tool for improving language accuracy and sharing the ideas clearly.