Some spelling tips

English can be baffling indeed.

May 7, 2010 16:49
3 minute read.
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Today’s column involves a brief grammar lesson we all fear: spelling.  Some spellings mystify us and we have to memorize them; some spellings go along with their pronunciations and enchant our ear; and some spellings have historical context. So, English can be baffling indeed. But, I believe, you must be able to correctly spell, pronounce and define a word to make it part of your working vocabulary.

Look at the following list and identify the incorrect spellings. Write corrections at the side.

Correct answers at end of article but no fair peeking!

1. decieve __________
2. indivisible __________
3. Febuary __________
4. sacrafice __________
5. symtom __________
6. Artic __________
7. catastrofe __________
8. obiterary __________
9. candadate __________
10. illiterite __________


 Figure out what words give you a hard time and write them (correctly) on flash cards or in a small notebook. Break the words into smaller parts and sound them out correctly. Learn the definition of the word. Let the dictionary help you and don’t be afraid to look up words more than once. Take those flash cards or notebook with you wherever you go and glance at them occasionally to pound them into your head. Practice saying them several times a day and try to use them in conversations. In other words, get used to them in every way possible. It helps when you have someone to converse with who will interchange with you while practicing the words.

A precept about saying that word aloud. First, correct pronunciation gives you a guide to correct spelling, so use that dictionary if you are in doubt about saying the word aloud. You will note that there are distinct differences between American and British spellings and pronunciations. I’m an American so I teach good old American, but I’ll never forget the mark I received for writing “labour” on a history exam as a freshman in college. As I said, I’m an American and the word is “labor.”

Prefixes and suffixes can give us trouble. The pre- is a front bumper and the suff- is the end. Today words with prefixes and suffixes, with few exceptions, are spelled solid whether they are nouns, verbs, adjectives or adverbs. 

The Rule for Prefixes:

Do not add or omit a letter when you attach a prefix.  Keep all the letters – yes, every one of them:

mis + spell = misspell
re + election = reelection
un + hinge = unhinge
un  + happy = unhappy
inter + related = interrelated
drunken + ly = drunkenly
foresee + able = foreseeable
dis + satisfied = dissatisfied

Some common prefixes are anti (antiwar), bi (bilingual), co (coauthor), counter (counterclockwise), extra (extraordinary) and inter (internecine).  Some common suffixes are ment (excitement), able (washable) and ful (careful). 

The Rule for Suffixes:

 Keep all the letters when you add a suffix – unless the word ends in a y or a silent e. 

drunken + ness = drunkenness
ski + ing = skiing
ache + ing = aching  (silent e)
type + ing = typing   (silent e)

1. If the letter before the final y is a consonant, change the y to i and add the suffix thusly:

worry + ed = worried
hungry + ly = hungrily

2. If the letter before the final y is a vowel, do not change the y before attaching a suffix.

play +  ing = playing
bury + ing = burying

Would you like to have additional lessons on spelling?  If so, let the editor of this paper know and I will try to oblige.

The writer is an author, teacher and body language expert living in the US.

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