Instructional Systems Study Guide for Spelling in English

ISHO # 2 (Print to download.)

Some words in English are difficult to spell, and there are no rules or guidelines that will give you much help with them. The way to deal with these words is simply to memorize their spellings. Repetition helps! Most words, however, have some clue or key to their difficulty, and being aware of these clues will make you a much better speller. We have separated these clues into five broad categories and urge you to study these carefully as you work through the spelling program. The quicker you can spot a potentially difficult-to-spell word from a clue, the easier it will be to master its spelling.

In addition to helping you with the words of this program, we hope that you will remember these clues in the future and that you will take the time to look up a potentially difficult-to-spell word when you want to use it in your writing.

To familiarize yourself with these five clues, read them over carefully and then see if you can find an additional word or so that fits each of the five categories.

CATEGORY ONE: Difficult Beginnings

With some words the main problem is how to begin. If you can solve the problem, the rest of the word is often simple.

1. "P&R" WORDS: Words beginning with "P" that also have an "R" in the first syllable are potential problems. Careful attention to the sound of the first syllable of these works will sometimes help, but be ready to look them up until you are secure with them. Watch for per-/pur-, par-/pro-/pre-: persuade, pursuit, particular, provide, precede.

2. DI- or DE-?: The initial sounds of many words beginning with di-and de- are so nearly alike that it would pay you to be particularly careful in studying these words. Some examples are delicious, despicable, description, distinguished, and dilemma .

3. IN- or EN- ?: Often students simply write the sound that they think they hear because they are unfamiliar with the word. Watch for works such as encourage, endeavor, insane, inference.

CATEGORY TWO: Difficult Endings:

Some ending syllables that are spelled differently sound so much alike that they can cause even good spellers difficulty. Some knowledge of Latin helps, but for most people it is a good idea to look up these words if one is not sure of the endings. Watch out especially for these like-sounding endings: -ible/-able, -ence/-ance, -ous/-eous/-ious, -sion/- tion, and --le/-el: intangible, accessible, credible, noticeable, valuable,, irreparable, comparable; audience, existence, hindrance, maintenance; generous, humorous, courteous, precious, vicious; occasion, possession, imagination, civilization; label, angle.

CATEGORY THREE: The influence of "E"

The letter "E" (and sometimes other vowels) has a strong effect on the spelling of many words in English because its presence or its position has a distinct effect on pronunciation. There are many subtle influences of "E" on spelling, but we will point out three prominent situations: the effect on long vowels preceding the "E," the effect of "E" following "C," and the effect of "E" following "G."

1. ON LONG VOWELS: An "E" following a consonant that follows another vowel usually makes that other vowel long. (That is, it sounds like the name of the letter, as in the "a" in day .) Here are some examples: note as opposed to not or tape as opposed to tap. The following are influenced by "E" in their long vowel sounds: loneliness, ninety, grateful, label, ache (ch is a single consonant sound).

2. ON "C": An "E" (and sometimes other vowels) following a "C" usually makes the "C" sound "soft" (like an "s"): physician, magnificent, noticeable.

3. ON "G": An "E" (and sometimes other vowels) following a "G" usually makes the "G" sound "soft" (like the dg sound in edge ): language, imagination, angel, (notice the hard sound in angle, the geometric term).

CATEGORY FOUR: Double Consonants

A double consonant following a vowel usually has just the opposite effect on the vowel as does a following "E." Note the following diagram:

(long sound) (long sound)(short sound)(short sound)

Notice the effect of double consonants on the pronunciation of these words: embarrassing, carrying, beggar, necessary, misspell, mirror. How would you pronounce these words if the double consonants were single?

CATEGORY FIVE: Words That Are Nearly Alike

Many words are difficult to spell because they look like or sound like (or nearly like) other words. Here are some difficult pairs from our Top Twenty-five Double Demons spelling program: personnel/personal, legislator/legislature, fourth/forth, desert (v)/dessert (n), effect (n)/affect (v), principle/principal, complement/compliment.

NOTE: Some words have two acceptable spellings. In our programs we have generally used the first entry in the American Heritage Dictionary. Here are some words with more than one acceptable spelling: judgment/judgement, abridgment/abridgement, fulfill/fulfil, canceled/cancelled, lovable, loveable. Often the difference in spelling among the correct forms with dual spellings is in the difference between British and American English.

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