Monday, March 17, 2008

Predictable Misspellings

Question: What are some types of words that are likely to be misspelled?

Answer: One day I found in a bookstore a little paperback book entitled, Six Minutes A Day To Perfect Spelling by Harry Shefter. It contained a number of ideas to make learning to spell interesting. Mr. Shefter provided a list of most of the words that could be predictably misspelled. I can't give you the entire list--you'll need to purchase the book for that--but I can give you examples of the types of likely misspellings you will encounter in English.

Multi-syllable words with double consonants: accommodate, recommend.

-sede, -ceed, -cede words: only one word ends in -sede, supersede; only three words end in -ceed, proceed, succeed and exceed; all the rest end in -cede (except the "seed" you plant in the ground): intercede, recede, secede, precede, accede, etc.

Words ending in -ful. Every word ending in -ful is spelled with one l. One exception, of course, is the word "full" itself: flavorful; beautiful.

The indefinite vowel, words containing a vowel sound that does not clearly express a, e, i, o or u: arithmetic, dependent, existence, etc.

Rules:I before e, except after c, or when rhyming with a as in neighbor and weigh: believe, receive, reign. Some exceptions: counterfeit, financier, leisure, seize and weird.

Plurals of nouns ending in o: mosquito/mosquitoes; tomato/tomatoes; potato/potatoes. But in music: altos, pianos, sopranos.

Doubling the final consonant preceded by a vowel with words of two or more syllables: accented second-syllable: prefer'/preferred; occur'/occurred. Accented first syllable: pref''/erence

Doubling the final consonant with words of one syllable ending in a consonant and preceded by a vowel: chop/chopped; drop/dropped; set/setting.

-ly: add the -ly to the complete multi-syllable word--accidental/ly; especial/ly; desperate/ly. But: true/truly; whole/wholly.

silent e: desire/desirable; write/writing; hope/hoping; practice/practicing. But: noticeable; changeable [to preserve the sounds of "notice" and "change"].

Prefixes: dissatisfied, foreclosure, forehead, foreword [don't confuse with "forward," the direction]; irresistible, misspell, misstate, unnecessary.

C/S confusion: consensus; expense; offense; hypocrisy; defense.

Pronunciation: words often mispronounced or not pronounced the way they are spelled: amateur; mischievous; February.

Words frequently confused: cereal/serial; colonel/kernel; compliment [praise]/ complement [complete].

Silent letters: benign; debt; indict.

Plurals: mothers-in-law; passers-by; attorneys-general; cupfuls. Story/stories: if a word ends in y, preceded by a consonant, change the y to i and add es. Valley/valleys: if the word ends in
-ey, just add s.

Tomorrow: how to remember the spelling of important words.

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