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5.7: The Importance of Spelling

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    Word-processing programs usually have a spell-checker, but you should still carefully check for correct changes in your words. This is because automatic spell-checkers may not always understand the context of a word.

    Misspelling a word might seem like a minor mistake, but it can reflect very poorly on a writer. It suggests one of two things: either the writer does not care enough about his work to proofread it, or he does not know his topic well enough to properly spell words related to it. Either way, spelling errors will make a reader less likely to trust a writer’s authority.

    a list of misspelled words from the dictionaryThe best way to ensure that a paper has no spelling errors is to look for them during the proofreading stage of the writing process. Being familiar with the most common errors will help you find (and fix) them during the writing and proofreading stage.

    Sometimes, a writer just doesn’t know how to spell the word she wants to use. This may be because the word is technical jargon or comes from a language other than her own. Other times, it may be a proper name that she has not encountered before. Anytime you want to use a word but are unsure of how to spell it, do not guess. Instead, check a dictionary or other reference work to find its proper spelling.

    Common Spelling Errors

    Phonetic Errors

    Phonetics is a field that studies the sounds of a language. However, English phonetics can be tricky: In English, the pronunciation of a word does not always relate to the way it is spelled. This can make spelling a challenge. Here are some common phonetic irregularities:

    • A word can sound like it could be spelled multiple ways. For example: “concede” and “conceed” are the same phonetically, but only “concede” is the proper spelling.
    • A word has silent letters that the writer may forget to include. You cannot hear the “a” in “realize,” but you need it to spell the word correctly.
    • A word has double letters that the writer may forget to include. “Accommodate,” for example, is frequently misspelled as “acommodate” or “accomodate.”
    • The writer may use double letters when they are not needed. The word “amend” has only one “m,” but it is commonly misspelled with two.

    Sometimes, words just aren’t spelled the way they sound. “Right,” for example, does not resemble its phonetic spelling whatsoever. Try to become familiar with words that have unusual or non-phonetic spellings so you can be on the lookout for them in your writing. But again, the best way to avoid these misspellings is to consult a dictionary whenever you’re unsure of the correct spelling.


    “Bread” and “bred” sound the same, but they are spelled differently, and they mean completely different things. Two words with different meanings but the same pronunciation are homophones. If you don’t know which homophone is the right one to use, look both up in the dictionary to see which meaning (and spelling) you want. Common homophones include:

    • right, rite, wright, and write
    • read (most tenses of the verb) and reed
    • read (past, past participle) and red
    • rose (flower) and rose (past tense of rise)
    • carat, caret, and carrot
    • to, two, and too
    • there, their, and they’re
    • its and it’s

    Typographical Errors

    Some spelling errors are caused by the writer accidentally typing the wrong thing. Common typos include:

    • Omitting letters from a word (typing “brthday” instead of “birthday,” for example)
    • Adding extra letters (typing “birthdayy”)
    • Transposing two letters in a word (typing “brithday”)
    • Spacing words improperly (such as “myb irthday” instead of “my birthday”)

    Being aware of these common mistakes when writing will help you avoid spelling errors.

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