8.2 – Spelling – Basics of communication for the university (adapted) (2023)

Learning Objectives

  • Demonstrate understanding of the basics of sentence structure, grammatical clarity and mechanical correctness.
    • Identify subjects and predicates.
    • Recognize independent and dependent grammatical elements.
    • Write sentences that are structurally sound, grammatically clear, and mechanically correct.
    • Identify common spelling rules.
    • Identify commonly misused homonyms.
    • Identify common spelling mistakes.

An essential aspect of good writing is accurate spelling. With computer spell checkers, spelling may seem simple, but these programs do not catch all errors. Spell checking catches some errors, but authors still need to consider flagged words and suggested replacements. The writers remain responsible for any remaining errors.

For example, if the spell checker highlights a misspelled word and gives you a list of alternative words, you can choose a word you've never thought of, even if it's spelled correctly. This can change the meaning of your sentence. It can also confuse readers and cause them to lose interest. Computer spell checkers are useful editing tools, but they can never replace human knowledge of spelling rules, homonyms, and common misspellings.

general spelling rules

The best way to master new words is to understand the most important spelling rules. However, remember that some spelling rules have exceptions. A spell checker can catch these exceptions, but knowing them will prepare you to spell accurately on the first try. You might want to try to remember each rule and its exception, just as you would remember a rhyme or a lyric to a song.

WriteIFormiexcept afterC, or when pronouncedessuch as "neighbor" or "regret".

  • achThat meansand NThat meansce, alThat meansnorte
  • recNove, dicNove

When words end with a consonant plusy, slipyand add oneIbefore adding another ending.

  • happy + he = happyIes
  • cry + swear = crIeducate

When words end with a vowel plusy, beholdyand add the end.

  • ofes+ ed = delAnd

Remember the following exceptions to this rule:day,put,say,pay=daily,established,saying,paid

By adding an ending that begins with a vowel, such as –i stand, -bubble gum, -i g, o -ity, drop the last onemiIn one word.

  • writingmi+ ing = writteni g
  • renmi+ ity = renity

By adding an ending that begins with a consonant, such as –something smaller, -ment, o -liekeep the last onemiIn one word.

  • hope + minus = jumpmisomething smaller
  • ad + mention = admiment

Too many words ending in a consonant ando, add -swhen the plural form is used.

  • pho-in+ s = photos
  • overNo+ s = sopraner

Add -esto words ending ins,ch,sh, yx.

  • putch+ is = churches
  • fax+ is = faxer

Exercise 1

Identify and correct the nine misspelled words in the following paragraph.

Sherman J. Alexie Jr. was born in October 1966. He is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Native American 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 likely suffer long-term brain damage and possibly mental retardation. Although Alexie survived without mental disability, he suffered from other serious side effects of his condition which plagued him throughout his childhood. Amazingly, Alexie learned to read at the age of three and by the age of five he was already reading novels such as John Steinbeck's.The grapes of wrath. Raised on a Native American reservation, Alexie often felt alienated from his peers due to his avid love of reading and also the long-term effects of his illness, which often prevented him from socializing with his peers on the reservation. The reading skills he displayed at such a young age foreshadowed what he would later become. Today, Alexie is a prolific and successful writer with several anthologies of stories to his credit, espThe Lone Ranger and Tonto have a fistfight in the skyyThe toughest Indian in the world. Most of his fiction is about contemporary Native Americans influenced by pop culture and pow wows and everything else. His work is sometimes playful, but always thoughtful and full of richness and depth. Alexie also writes poetry, novels and screenplays. His latest collection of short stories is calledwar dancer, which was published in 2009.


Eight tips to improve spelling skills

  1. Read the words on your homework carefully and avoid skimming the page. Focusing on your written assignment word by word will help you pay close attention to the spelling of each word. Skim quickly, you may miss typos.
  2. Use mnemonic devices to remember the correct spelling of words. Mnemonic devices or memory techniques and learning aids include inventive sayings or practices that help you remember. For example, the saying "It's important to be a beautiful person inside and out" can help you remember that beauty begins with "being one." Practicing the pronunciation of the word Wednesday Wednesday can help you remember how to spell the word correctly.
  3. Use a dictionary. Many professional writers rely on the dictionary, whether in print or online. If you find it difficult to use a regular dictionary, ask your instructor to help you find a "dictionary for spelling mistakes".
  4. Use your computer's spell checker. The spell checker won't solve all your spelling problems, but it's a useful tool. See the introduction to this section for spell check precautions.
  5. Keep a list of common spelling mistakes. You will often misspell the same words over and over again, but don't let this deter you. All writers struggle with the spelling of certain words; they realize their spelling weaknesses and work to improve them. Remember which words you often misspell and you can add them to a list to learn how to spell them correctly.
  6. Review corrected papers for misspelled words. Add these words to your list and practice writing each word four to five times each. Writing teachers will especially notice which words you frequently misspell and help you excel in your classes if they see your spelling improve.
  7. Challenge yourself with flashcards. Sometimes the old ways are the best, and for spelling, this tried-and-true technique has worked for many students. You can work with a partner or alone.
  8. Review the general spelling rules explained in this chapter. Take your time to master the material; You can return to the rules in this chapter again and again as needed.


Remember to focus on spelling during the editing and proofreading stage of the writing process. Start with the big ideas, like organizing your writing and developing effective paragraphs, then work your way down to the smaller but equally important details, like spelling and punctuation. To read more about the writing and editing and review process, seeChapter 3 "The Writing Process: How Do I Start?".


Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different meanings.

Frequently misused homonyms

main principle

  • Principle (noun).A basic concept that is accepted as true.

    Heprinciplehuman equality is an important foundation for all nations.

  • Principal (noun).The original amount of the debt on which interest is calculated.

    The payment plan allows me to return onlyheadmasteramount, not compound interest.

  • Principal (noun).A person who is the highest authority in a school.

    Heheadmasterheld a parent meeting.

Where, wear, lasts

  • where (adverb).The place where something happens.

    Whereis it the restaurant

  • Use (verb).Wear or wear on the body.

    I willwearmy hiking boots when I have to climb tomorrow morning.

  • Merchandise (noun).Goods or manufacture (usually,gods).

    When I get back from shopping, I'll show you minegods.

Bly, LED

  • Bly (substantiv).A type of metal used in pipes and batteries.

    Heto leadThe pipes in my houses are old and need to be replaced.

  • carry (verb).past tense of the verbto lead.

    After the garden, hunledpatrons through the museum.

what a witch

  • which (pronoun).Replaces one in a group.

    Which oneis the apartment yours?

  • Witch (noun).Person who practices sorcery or who has supernatural powers.

    She thinks, she is onewitch, but she doesn't seem to have any power.

piece of peace

  • Fred (substantiv).A state of calm or quiet.

    For once there waspazbetween the quarreling brothers.

  • Piece (noun).Part of a whole.

    I would like a big onepiececake, please

past, past

  • Past (verb).Leave or move.

    Heapprovedslower cars on the road using the left lane.

  • Past (noun).To have existed or to have taken place in a period prior to the present.

    The discussion took place atpast, so there is no point in dwelling on it.

Reduce, lesson

  • read (verb).Reduce in quantity, size or quality.

    My dentist gave me medicine toMinimizethe pain of my toothache.

  • Lesson (noun).A reading or exercise to be studied by a student.

    from todaylessonit was about mortgage interest rates.

Patience, patients

  • Patience (noun).The ability to be patient (waiting for a period or enduring pain and trials calmly).

    the beginning teacherpatiencewith the rebel class it was great.

  • Patients (plural noun).Persons under medical care.

    Hepatientsthey were tired of eating the hospital food and couldn't wait for a home-cooked meal.

Go, have, grab

  • And (verb).Perceive with the eye.

    Hevea whale through his binoculars.

  • Sea (plural noun).Plural of sea, a large amount of salt water.

    The fluctuations in the ocean tides andhopperThey are influenced by the moon.

  • seize (verb).Possess or take by force.

    the king plansgearingall the peasants' land.

threw through

  • Take away (verb).Past tense ofto throw.

    Ellalaunchfootball with perfect shape.

  • Gennem (preposition).Words that indicate movement.

    she leftthroughthe door and out of his life.

Exercise 2

Complete the following sentences by choosing the correct homonym.

  1. Do you agree with the underlying ________(main principle) that ensures copyright protection in the digital age?
  2. I like to ________(where, wear, store) unique clothes from thrift stores that don't have company logos.
  3. Marjorie felt like she was being ________ (directed, led) on a wild hunt and she didn't like it.
  4. Serina described ________(witch, which) house was hers, but now that I'm here, they all look the same.
  5. Seeing his friend without lunch, Miguel gave her a ________(peace, piece) of his apple.
  6. Do you think it is healthy for the mother to talk all the time about ___________(past, past)?
  7. Eating healthier foods ___________ (will reduce, lesson) the risk of heart disease.
  8. I know it sounds cliché, but my father was the ________ (patient, patience) of a saint.
  9. Daniela ________(walk, dizzy, seize) opportunities in the bleakest situations, and that is why she is successful.
  10. Everyone goes through ________ (went through, threw) difficulties in life, no matter who they are.

Words that are often misspelled

Below is a list of common misspellings. You probably use these words every day, whether you are speaking or writing. Each word has a bold segment indicating the problem area of ​​the word that is commonly misspelled. If you can, use this list as a guide before, during, and after you write.


Use the following two tricks to help you master these problem words:

  1. Copy each word several times and underline the problem area.
  2. Copy the words onto flashcards and ask a friend to try it.

Table 1 -Words that are often misspelled

-inCrossdisApplicationsalveiticketrationpartiestulargosepWe are buyinghe
-inDDRatOTHER TOOLSsiderresorting toisayAndbyformsimulatorilar
responsewesdoesNew TestamentAnd TForcallebymaybesince
argumenttumenteighthAnd Testo carrypersonannhespAndch
ojonni genvirimentjudgegmentafterssiblesonCCat
CaliforniamiNorth Dakota-inrfamilyoArkansasmaintenanceainprejudgeisAndcompeting
contrastciesingle timecontrolrnmentme-inNew TestamentProbabyliehebadgh
absolutely determinedit isheeyghtnerveospagtusuetired
desaimillIt does not matteroCCasionjudgeesbubble gumuntIllinois
comply withesateimmediatelyyachtliemeanionalsohemetroroadstime

Exercise 3

Identify and correct the ten common spelling mistakes in the following section.

Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs that make up New York City. It is located on the eastern shore of Long Island, directly across the East River from Manhattan Island. Its beginnings date back to the 16th century, when it was founded by the Dutch, who originally called it "Breuckel". Immediately after the Dutch settled Brooklyn, it came under British rule. However, neither the Dutch nor the British were the first inhabitants of Brooklyn. When European settlers first arrived, Brooklyn was largely inhabited by the Lenapi, a collective name for various organized groups of Native Americans who settled a large tract of land stretching from upstate New York throughout the state of New Jersey. They are sometimes known as the Delaware Indians. Over time, the Lenapi succumbed to European diseases or to conflicts between European settlers or other Native American enemies. Eventually the British drove them out of Brooklyn entirely.

In 1776, Brooklyn was the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution known as the Battle of Brooklyn. The colonists, led by George Washington, lost this battle, but over the next two years they would win the war and drive the British out of the colonies once and for all.

In the late 19th century, Brooklyn became a city in its own right. The completion of the Brooklyn Bridge was cause for celebration; transportation and trade between Brooklyn and Manhattan now became much easier. Finally, in 1898, Brooklyn lost its distinct identity as an independent city and became one of the five boroughs of New York City. But in some people's view, integration in New York City should never have happened; they believed that Brooklyn should have remained an independent city.


Share with a classmate and compare your answers.

write at work

In today's job market, writing emails has become a means by which many people find work. Emails to potential employers require careful word choice, accurate spelling and perfect punctuation. Employers' inboxes are flooded daily with countless e-mails. If even the subject line of an email contains a typo, it will likely be skipped and someone else's email will take precedence.

The best thing to do after reviewing an email to an employer and running a spell check is to have an extra set of eyes check it with you; one of your teachers can read the email and give you suggestions for improvement. Most colleges and universities have writing centers that can help you as well.

key takeaways

  • Accurate and flawless spelling improves your credibility with the reader.
  • Mastering the spelling rules can help you become a better speller.
  • Knowing commonly misused homonyms can prevent misspellings.
  • Studying the list of common misspellings in this chapter, or studying your own list, is one way to improve your spelling skills.

write app

What is your definition of a successful person? Is it based on a person's profession or is it based on their character? Perhaps success means a combination of both. In one paragraph, describe in detail what you think makes a person successful. When you're done, check your work for spelling mistakes. Exchange papers with a partner and read each other's work. See if you spot any spelling mistakes that your partner has forgotten.

Attributions and references

Unless otherwise noted, this chapter is adapted from "4.2 Spelling"Iwrite for successby University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing, under licenseCC BY-NC 4.0.


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