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12.2: Spelling

  • Page ID
    45865
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    Spelling

    One essential aspect of good writing is accurate spelling. With computer spell checkers, spelling may seem simple, but these programs fail to catch every error. Spell checkers identify some errors, but writers still have to consider the flagged words and suggested replacements. Even if using a spell check tool, writers are still responsible for the errors that remain.

    For example, if the spell checker highlights a word that is misspelled and gives you a list of alternative words, you may choose a word that you never intended even though it is spelled correctly. This can change the meaning of your sentence. It can also confuse readers, making them lose interest, or it can cause you to lose credibility as a writer. Computer spell checkers are useful editing tools, but they can never replace human knowledge of spelling rules, homonyms, and commonly misspelled words.

    Common Spelling Rules

    The best way to master new words is to understand the key spelling rules. Keep in mind, however, that some spelling rules carry exceptions. A spell checker may catch these exceptions, but knowing them yourself will prepare you to spell accurately on the first try. You may want to try memorizing each rule and its exception like you would memorize a rhyme or lyrics to a song.

    1) Write i before e except after c, or when pronounced ay like “neighbor” or “weigh.”

    • achieve, niece, alien -- follow rule
    • receive, deceive -- exception

    2) When words end in a consonant plus y, drop the y and add an i before adding another ending.

    • happy + er = happier -- follows rule
    • cry + ed = cried -- follows rule

    3) When words end in a vowel plus y, keep the y and add the ending.

    • delay + ed = delayed -- follows rule

    Note: Memorize the following exceptions to this rule: day, lay, say, pay = daily, laid, said, paid

    4) When adding an ending that begins with a vowel, such as –able, –ence, –ing, or –ity, drop the last e in a word.

    • write + ing = writing
    • pure + ity = purity

    5) When adding an ending that begins with a consonant, such as –less, –ment, or –ly, keep the last e in a word.

    • hope + less = hopeless
    • advertise + ment = advertisement

    6) For many words ending in a consonant and an o, add –s when using the plural form.

    • photo + s = photos
    • soprano + s = sopranos

    7) Add –es to words that end in s, ch, sh, and x.

    • church + es = churches
    • fax + es = faxes

    Video \(\PageIndex{1}\)
    Video \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Eight Tips to Improve Spelling Skills

    1. Read the words in your assignment carefully, and avoid skimming over the page. Focusing on your written assignment word by word will help you pay close attention to each word's spelling. Skimming quickly, you may overlook misspelled words.

    2. Use mnemonic (memory) devices to remember the correct spelling of words. Mnemonic devices, or memory techniques and learning aids, include inventive sayings or songs or practices that help you remember. For example, the the saying "It is important to be a beautiful person inside and out" may help you remember that beautiful begins with "be a." The practice of pronouncing the word Wednesday Wed-nes-day or people as pe-o-ple may help you remember how to spell the word correctly.

    3. Use a dictionary. Many professional writers rely on the dictionary -- either in print or online. If you find it difficult to use a regular dictionary, ask your instructor to help you find a dictionary that will work for you.

    4. Use your computer's spell checker. The spell check will not solve all your spelling problems, but it is a useful tool. See the introduction to this section for cautions about spell checkers.

    5. Keep a list of your frequently misspelled words. You will often misspell the same words again and again, but do not let this discourage you. All writers struggle with the spellings of certain words; they become aware of their spelling weaknesses and work to improve. Be aware of which words you commonly misspell, and you can add them to a list to learn to spell them correctly.

    6. Look over corrected papers for misspelled words. Add these words to your list and practice writing each word four to five times each. Writing teachers will especially notice which words you frequently misspell, and it will help you excel in your classes if they see your spelling improve.

    7. Test yourself with flashcards. Sometimes the old-fashioned methods are best, and for spelling, this tried and true technique has worked for many students. You can work with a peer or alone.

    Review the common spelling rules explained on this page. Take the necessary time to master the material; you may return to the rules on this page again and again, as needed.

    Tip:

    Remember to focus on spelling during the editing and revising step of the writing process. Start with the big ideas such as organizing your piece of writing and developing effective paragraphs, and then work your way down toward the smaller--but equally important--details like spelling and punctuation. To read more about the writing process and editing and revising, see Chapter 7.

    Commonly Misspelled Words

    Use the following two tricks to help you master these troublesome words:

    1. Copy each word a few times and underline the problem area.

    2. Copy the words (by hand) onto flash cards and have a friend test you.

    Commonly Misspelled Words
    across address answer
    argument athlete beginning
    behavior calendar conscience
    crowded definite describe
    desperate different disappoint
    disapprove doesn't eighth
    embarrass environment exaggerate
    familiar finally government
    grammar height illegal
    immediately important integration
    intelligent interest interfere
    jewelry judgment knowledge
    maintain mathematics meant
    necessary nervous occasion
    opinion optimist

    Exercises

    Exercise 1: Edit and Correct Misspelled Words 1

    Identify and correct the ten misspelled words in the following paragraph.

    It is hard to imagine that Joanne Rowling, better known as J.K. Rowling, was a struggleing writer once. The best-selling author of the Harry Potter fantasy serys had to go through serious hardship to get where she is now. Although she lovd books from a young age, her teenage years were quite unhappy due to her mother falling ill with multiple sclerosis. Her mother dyed ten years later, while Rowling was writeing her first book, which had a huge impact on her writing. While writing Harry Potter, Rowling got marryed, had a miscarryage, suffered from alleged domestic abuse, fell pregnant, and ended up separateing from her husband. Without a job and haveing to care for an infant, Rowling became clinically depressed and even contemplated suicide. Eventually she was forced to sign up for welfare benefits. Her big break only came after many rejections, when the daughter of the chairman of a publishing house read the first chapter of Harry Potter and immediatly wanted to read more. Even then, Rowling was advised to get a day job as there was no money in children books, but thanks to fans of her work she quickly rose to stardom.

    Answer

    It is hard to imagine that Joanne Rowling, better known as J.K. Rowling, was a struggling writer once. The best-selling author of the Harry Potter fantasy series had to go through serious hardship to get where she is now. Although she loved books from a young age, her teenage years were quite unhappy due to her mother falling ill with multiple sclerosis. Her mother died ten years later, while Rowling was writing her first book, which had a huge impact on her writing. While writing Harry Potter, Rowling got married, had a miscarriage, suffered from alleged domestic abuse, fell pregnant and ended up separating from her husband. Without a job and having to care for an infant, Rowling became clinically depressed and even contemplated suicide. Eventually she was forced to sign up for welfare benefits. Her big break only came after many rejections, when the daughter of the chairman of a publishing house read the first chapter of Harry Potter and immediately wanted to read more. Even then, Rowling was advised to get a day job as there was no money in children’s books, but thanks to fans of her work she quickly rose to stardom.

    Exercise 2: Edit and Correct Misspelled Words 2

    Identify and correct the commonly misspelled words in the following paragraph.

    Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs that make up New York City. It is located on the eastern shore of Long Island, directly accross the East River from the island of Manhattan. Its beginings stretch back to the 16th century when it was founded by the Dutch, who originally called it "Breuckelen." Immedietely after the Dutch settled Brooklyn, it came under British rule. However, neither the Dutch nor the British were Brooklyn's first inhabitants. When European settlers first arrived, Brooklyn was largely inhabited by the Lenapi, a collective name for several organized bands of Native American people who settled a large area of land that extended from upstate New York through the entire state of New Jersey. They are sometimes referred to as the Delaware Indians. Over time, the Lenapi succumbed to European diseases or conflicts between European settlers or other Native American enemies. Finalley they were pushed out of Brooklyn completely by the British. In 1776, Brooklyn was the site of the first importent battle of the American Revolution, known as the Battle of Brooklyn. The colonists lost this battle, which was led by George Washington, but over the next two years they would win the war, kicking the British out of the colonies once and for all. By the end of the nineteenth century, Brooklyn grew to be a city in its own right. The completion of the Brooklyn Bridge was an ocasion for celebration; transportation and commerce between Brooklyn and Manhattan now became much easier. Eventually, in 1898, Brooklyn lost its seperate identity as an independent city and became one of five boroughs of New York City. However, in some people's opinien, the intagration into New York City should never have happened; they though Brooklyn should have remained an independent city.

    Answer

    Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs that make up New York City. It is located on the eastern shore of Long Island, directly accross the East River from the island of Manhattan. Its beginnings stretch back to the 16th century when it was founded by the Dutch, who originally called it "Breuckelen." Immediately after the Dutch settled Brooklyn, it came under British rule. However, neither the Dutch nor the British were Brooklyn's first inhabitants. When European settlers first arrived, Brooklyn was largely inhabited by the Lenapi, a collective name for several organized bands of Native American people who settled a large area of land that extended from upstate New York through the entire state of New Jersey. They are sometimes referred to as the Delaware Indians. Over time, the Lenapi succumbed to European diseases or conflicts between European settlers or other Native American enemies. Finally they were pushed out of Brooklyn completely by the British. In 1776, Brooklyn was the site of the first importent battle of the American Revolution, known as the Battle of Brooklyn. The colonists lost this battle, which was led by George Washington, but over the next two years they would win the war, kicking the British out of the colonies once and for all. By the end of the nineteenth century, Brooklyn grew to be a city in its own right. The completion of the Brooklyn Bridge was an occasion for celebration; transportation and commerce between Brooklyn and Manhattan now became much easier. Eventually, in 1898, Brooklyn lost its separate identity as an independent city and became one of five boroughs of New York City. However, in some people's opinion, the integration into New York City should never have happened; they thought Brooklyn should have remained an independent city.

    Writing at Work

    In today's job market, writing emails has become a means by which many people find employment. Emails to prospective employers require thoughtful word choice, accurate spelling, and perfect punctuation. Employers' inboxes are inundated with countless emails daily. If even the subject line of an email contains a spelling error, it will likely be overlooked, and someone else's email will take priority.

    The best thing to do after you proofread an email to an employer and run the spell check is to have an additional set of eyes go over it with you; one of your teachers may be able to read the email and give you suggestions for improvement. Most colleges and universities have writing and career centers, both of which may also be able to assist you.

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    This page was most recently updated on May 30, 2020.


    12.2: Spelling is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto.