Don’t Be a Speller-Dweller: 6 Tips for Strengthening Your Written Communications
It may not seem like today, in a world of texting shorthand such as “u for you,” “ur for your,” and “WTF for,” well–you get the picture–that spelling doesn’t matter anymore. Yes if you believe that, then just try to write a novel using this lazy man’s English and watch the rejection letters roll in. Spelling is still important–more important than it ever was, in fact–and if you want to pass the CLEP English Composition exam, attain an education, and stand out from other job applicants then you will need it for effective written communications. But other than “just learning” a word, what techniques can you employ to improve this part of your education? Glad you asked. Here are some tips.
1. Spell-Checker is NOT Your Friend.
While spell-checker programs can be quite helpful in picking out the obvious misspellings, they’re not much good when it comes to telling you whether a sentence calls for they’re/their/there, it’s/its and two/too/to. For that, you need to actually know the proper word for the proper occasion. So the first thing you have to do is get out of the mindset that you live in a technological age and computer programs can do everything for you.
2. Learn from Your Mistakes.
Inevitably you’re going to make spelling mistakes. No one gets through their entire educational career without tripping up somewhere. To combat this inevitability, go over your graded tests and essays. Pay particularly close attention to spelling mistakes that are made along the way. It could be that you’re comfortable with 60% or 80% of the vocabulary. If so, great. That means you’ll have less to review when you see your grades. But you’ll never achieve mastery of what you don’t know if you fail to recognize and learn from the mistakes as they are presented.
3. Create your own sentences.
If there is a particularly tricky word that you are having a hard time remembering, then you should consider creating unique sentences that help you easily recall the order of the letters. Basically use the power of the acrostic. Example: psoriasis. Pedro Stevens Of Raleigh Is A Studious Intense Sucker. Creating an association with that sentence to the word “psoriasis” will allow you to instantly remember the silent p and the rest of the letter-order. The sentence doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you, and it may even be best that it doesn’t. After all, outrageousness is very memorable.
4. Sound it out.
This is a tricky tip but highly effective if you allow for exceptions. While there are some strange words and rules in the English language, there is still mostly order and one can take advantage of this order for the lion’s share of words. If working from a vocabulary list then you need to go over each word and note the ones that can be easily solved through phonetics, or by simply saying the words aloud and sounding them out. Once you know how many vocabulary terms are spelled as they sound then you can hone in on the ones that might get a little funky. At that point refer back to Tip No. 3.
5. Learn syllables.
Syllables are gifts from the spelling gods because they allow you to break down each word in to manageable units. “Donkey” can become “don” and “key”; “phonetics” can become “pho,” “net,” and “ics”; and “alouicious” can become “a,” “lou,” “i,” and “cious.” By identifying each syllable in a word–along with its spelling–you can conquer big words one little word (or word fragment) at a time.
6. Respect rules, but know they are made to be broken.
English does have its rules. Here are a couple. 1) “I” before “e” except after “c.” (exs. receive, pier) 2) Alter the ending “y” to “i” before the suffix (with the exception of when a suffix begins with “i”–exs. parties, copying). But as helpful as these rules are, they also have their exceptions. 1) Efficient, weird and caffeine, anyone? 2) What about journeying and memorize? While rules can solve a great deal of your spelling woes, they can also create some of their own if you’re not vigilant and alert to the intricacies of the language.