2.1 Spelling


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

  • spelling tips
  • frequently misspelled words
  • using a dictionary and thesaurus

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. 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.
  • Read. As simple as that sounds, reading good writing is the best way to learn to spell correctly.

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

On the last page of your notebook, start a list of words you frequently misspell.  Title it “(Mis)spelling List.”

Add to this list throughout the term. You may already know some words that are problems for you. You may recognize a problem word in the list above. If you don’t have any words yet, keep an eye on assignments returned to you throughout the term and add any word marked as misspelled.

  • On the list, write the word 5 times, spelled correctly.
  • Then write a sentence using the word and spelling it correctly.

If you misspell a word again at a later date, put it on your list again.

Use a Dictionary and Thesaurus

Even professional writers need help with the meaning, spelling, pronunciation, and use of some words. They rely on dictionaries. No one knows every word in the English language and their multiple uses and meanings, so all writers, from beginners to professionals, benefit from using a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Most good dictionaries provide the following information:

  • Spelling: how the word and its different forms are spelled
  • Pronunciation: how to say the word
  • Part of speech: the function of the word in a sentence
  • Definition: the meaning or meanings of the word
  • : words that have similar meanings
  • Etymology: the history of the word

Look at the following dictionary entry and see if you can identify parts from the list above:

myth, mith, n. [Gr. mythos, a word, a fable, a legend.] A fable or legend embodying the convictions of a people as to their gods or other divine beings, their beginnings and early history and the heroes connected with it, or the origin of the world; any invented story, having no existence in fact.—myth • ic, myth • i • cal


Never simply replace one word with another unless you are sure you know what the replacement word means!

A thesaurus gives a list of synonyms. It also lists . A thesaurus will help you find the perfect word to convey your ideas. It will also help you learn more words.

Here is an example thesaurus entry. It gives the word, its part of speech, an example of its use, and synonyms and antonyms.

precocious adj, She’s such a precocious child.: uncommonly smart, mature, advanced, bright, brilliant, gifted, quick, clever. Ant. slow, backward, stupid.

Every time you use a dictionary or a thesaurus, the number of ways you can express yourself grows and the correctness of your writing improves.


  • Error-free spelling makes you more credible to readers.
  • Studying lists of commonly misspelled words or keeping a list of your own commonly misspelled words will improve your spelling skills.
  • Using a dictionary and thesaurus will expand your word choice.


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