This week, we focus on hints that are valuable to know to be able to deal correctly with some of the common spelling traps in English. A number of selected everyday spelling errors are addressed using simple, easy-to-remember spelling hints.
The first is the spelling error where the words “all right” are spelt wrongly as either alright or allright. It is unfortunate that some dictionaries present alright as an acceptable spelling option despite it being incorrect.
It is easy to remember the 4S Spelling Hint: ‘all right’ is like ‘all wrong’. Just as “all wrong” is spelt as two words, so should all right be.
Another common error is to spell believe as beleive. While one can apply the basic ‘ie’-’ei’ memory rule: ‘i’ before ‘e’, except after ‘c’, it is also simple to use the hint: “Don’t believe a lie.”
Just as lie is spelt with ‘ie’, so too is believe.
The word piece is another ‘ie’ word that can cause spelling problems. To help you remember, use the statement: “Have a piece of pie” as a hint to remember that just as pie is an ‘ie’ word, so too is piece.
Problems also occur with the spelling of sieve. The word sieve belongs to the same word family as sift. It will be noted that sift is spelt with an ‘i’. Likewise, sieve should be spelt with ‘ie’.
There, their and they’re
Most people have made mistakes at some time using there, their and they’re.
These words are best taught initially in context, e.g. Put that box over there. – Is that their new car? – They’re going to the beach today (they are).
As there causes most difficulties and as there, where and here all can refer to a place or a location, remember this spelling hint: “Where is there a place like here?”
Again, because here and hear are confused spelling-wise and because hear and ear are naturally related in terms of what they can mean, the 4S Spelling Hint: “Can you hear with that ear?” has proved to be a way to solve this issue.
The word cemetery is regularly misspelt as either cemetry or as cemetary. The easiest way to remember the correct spelling is with this hint: “There are three ‘e’s in cemetery.”
Many English words are spelt wrongly because they are pronounced wrongly.
The words tragic, magic and logic are examples where mispronunciation causes spelling errors.
In these cases, a “d..” sound is added when pronounced and often, “d” is added when spelt, e.g. tradgic, madgic, lodgic.
The 4S Spelling Hint comes to the rescue of spellers by teaching: “Tragic, magic and logic end in ‘c’ but have no ‘d’”.
Sometimes an extra ‘t’ is added to a word, e.g. spelling bachelor as batchelor. Remember this spelling hint: “Bill the bachelor doesn’t like tea.”
Spelling problems also occur with the everyday word, women, because of the initial “wim..” sound that one hears in “whim”. 4S believes the problem can be alleviated by applying the Spelling Hint: “Do you know that women and woman are spelt with ‘wo’?”
A similar sound-related issue occurs in the spelling and pronunciation of the word business. There is the additional problem of the word having a silent “i”.
To solve these problems, use this spelling hint: “I bus in to my business.”
Omitting one of the double consonants in a word when spelling is a common error that is usually the result of incorrect pronunciation. One such word is parallel, which is often spelt as paralel.
The 4S Spelling Hint is “All the ‘L’s are parallel” – stressing the fact that the combination “all” must be part of the word.
In the case of the word, battalion, writers often are not sure whether the word has two ‘t’s, or two ‘L’s, or both. As battalion can be related to the word battle, remember the hint: The battalion won the battle.
Understanding the rules
While the above, often one-off, spelling hints can be extremely helpful, the best way to develop superior spelling talents is to master the most relevant 4S Keys To Understanding Spelling.
In the case of double consonants, the most important spelling Key to remember is: Double consonants usually follow short vowels.
As mentioned in the previous column, except for double ‘L’, (‘L’ can rebel), if a multi-syllabic word has a double consonant, the preceding vowel will be “short”, that is, it will make its regular sound.
Consider: cof/fee, but/ter, cot/tage, ef/fort, com/mit, bar/rel, op/pose, at/tend, an/nounce, ad/dict, suc/cess, ac/cuse, ab/bey, es/sential, ac/com/modate, mas/sage, cab/bage.
The above, Short Vowel – Double Consonant rule is very dependable as is its counterpart: Long vowels are usually followed by single consonants.
If a vowel is “long”, i.e. it says its own name, the consonant that follows it stays single.
As is expected, some ‘ll’ words are exceptions because “l” can rebel, e.g. roll, roller.
Consider: elect, idle, obey, agent, utopia, baker, miner, Mohammad, Moses.
Compare tiger with trigger and diner with dinner.
To be a competent writer of English, one needs to develop superior spelling skills.
The prerequisite is to be able to pronounce words correctly as well as know the “rules” that explain why words are spelt the way they are.
by Keith Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.
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