2.1 Spelling


This section of Ch. 2 will cover the following topics:

  • spelling tips and rules
  • frequently misspelled words

With computer spellcheckers, spelling correctly may seem simple. But spellcheckers don’t catch every error. Also, if the spellchecker highlights a word that is misspelled and gives you a list of alternatives, you may choose a word with the wrong meaning, even though it is spelled correctly.

Writers are responsible for the errors in their work. Spellcheckers are useful editing tools, but they cannot replace human knowledge and judgment.

Tips to Improve Spelling

  • Read everything you write carefully. Focusing word by word will help you note each word’s spelling. If you skim quickly, you will overlook misspelled words.
  • Use memorizing techniques to remember the correct spelling of words. For example, pronouncing the word “Wednesday” as Wed-nes-day may help you remember how to spell it correctly.
  • Use a dictionary. Professional writers rely on dictionaries. If you find it difficult to use a regular dictionary because you can’t figure out how words start, get what is called a “poor speller’s dictionary.”
  • Keep a list of frequently misspelled words. Writers often misspell the same words over and over. Be aware of which words you commonly misspell and add them to a list.
  • Look over returned assignments for misspelled words. Add these words to your list and practice writing each word (spelled correctly!) four or five times.
  • Review the common spelling rules below. Return to the rules as needed.
  • Read. As simple as that sounds, reading good writing is the best way to learn to spell correctly.

A Few Spelling Rules

One way to master spelling is to learn a few basic spelling rules. Keep this list nearby and refer to it regularly. Understanding these rules won’t fix every spelling problem, but it will help with some of the more common and troublesome mistakes.

  1. Put i before e (achieve, niece, alien) except after c (receive, deceive) or when pronounced ay (neighbor, weigh).
  2. When words end in a plus y (happy, cry), drop the y and add an i before adding another ending (happy + er = happier, cry + ed = cried). But when words end in a plus y (delay), keep the y and add the ending (delay + ed = delayed). Exceptions are day, lay, say and pay which become daily, laid, said, paid.
  3. When adding an ending that begins with a vowel (-able, –ence, –ing, –ity) to a word that ends in e (write, pure), drop the last e (write + ing = writing, pure + ity = purity). But when adding an ending that begins with a consonant (-less, –ment, –ly) to a word that ends with an e (hope, advertise), keep the last e (hope + less = hopeless, advertise + ment = advertisement).
  4. Many words ending in a consonant and an o (photo, soprano) add -s to make it plural (photo + s = photos). Exceptions are words like potato, which adds es (potato + es = potatoes). Add -es to words that end in s, ch, sh, and x (church + es = churches, fax + es = faxes).

Exercise 1

Identify the nine misspelled words in the following paragraphs. Write the words, spelled correctly, in your notebook.

Sherman J. Alexie, Jr. was born in October 1966. He is a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian and an American writer, poet, and filmmaker. Alexie was born with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. This condition led doctors to predict that he would likly suffer long-term brain damage and possibly mental retardation. Although Alexie survived with no mental disabilitys, he did suffer other serious side effects from his condition that plagud him throughout his childhood. Amazingly, Alexie learned to read by the age of three, and by age five he had read novels such as John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Raised on an Indian reservation, Alexie often felt aleinated from his peers due to his avid love for reading and also from the long-term effects of his illness, which often kept him from socializeing with his peers on the reservation. The reading skills he displaid at such a young age foreshadowed his career.

Today Alexie is a prolific and successful writer with several story anthologeis to his credit, noteably The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Toughest Indian in the World. Most of his fiction is about contemporary Native Americans who are influenced by everything from pop culture to pow wows. His work is sometimes funny but always thoughtful and full of richness and depth. Alexie also writes poetry and screenplays. His collection of storys, called War Dances, came out in 2009.

Frequently Misspelled Words

Below is a list of words that are often misspelled. Each word has a segment in bold type, which indicates the part of the word that is often spelled incorrectly. Read through the list, noting words that are problematic for you.

across disappoint integration particular separate
address disapprove intelligent perform similar
answer doesn’t interest perhaps since
argument eighth interfere personnel speech
athlete embarrass jewelry possess strength
beginning environment judgment possible success
behavior exaggerate knowledge prefer surprise
calendar familiar maintain prejudice taught
career finally mathematics privilege temperature
conscience government meant probably thorough
crowded grammar necessary psychology thought
definite height nervous pursue tired
describe illegal occasion reference until
desperate immediately opinion rhythm weight
different important optimist ridiculous written

Exercise 2

Identify the nine commonly misspelled words in the following paragraphs. Write the words, spelled correctly, in your notebook.

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 sixteenth 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. 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 have never happened; they though Brooklyn should have remained an independent city.


  • Error-free spelling enhances your credibility with readers.
  • Mastering the rules of spelling can help you become a better speller.
  • Studying lists of commonly misspelled words or keeping a list of your own commonly misspelled words will improve your spelling skills.


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1, 2, 3 Write! by Gay Monteverde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.