Spelling Help: College Admissions Essay Help (page 3)
Some people seem to have inherited good spelling genes. However, if you don't fall into that category, there are a number of basic rules and techniques you can learn to improve your ability to spell.
Tempted to rely on your computer's spell check? While there's no excuse not to use it—it's fast, simple, and catches many common spelling errors—it's not pefect. Be aware of its most important limitations:
- Nonword versus real word errors. Most of us think of spelling errors in the first category—a string of letters that doesn't make a real word. You might type sevn instead of seven, or th for the. Spell check is an excellent tool for catching these types of mistakes. However, what if you're writing about the seven other students who participated in the Thirty Hour march, and you leave off the s and type even. This is known as a real word error. You have typed a legitimate, correctly spelled word; it's just not the word you meant to type and it doesn't convey the meaning you intended. Spell check can't find these types of errors.
- Proper nouns. Spell check uses a dictionary that doesn't include most proper nouns and words in other categories, such as the names of chemicals. You can always add a word or words to the dictionary once you're sure of its spelling, but for the first time, you will need to use another source (a reliable print one is best) to verify the spelling.
- Errors spelled similarly to another real word. If you misspell a word in such a way that it is now closer to a word other than the one you intended, spell check will probably offer the wrong word as a possible correction. For example, if your essay includes a coffee house scenario, and you type the word expresso, spell check will correct the error with express rather than espresso. Similarly, alot will be changed to allot. You must pay careful attention to spell check's suggested corrections to ensure the right selection.
Basic Spelling Rules
Carefully review the following basic spelling rules, and be sure to avoid making these mistakes in your essay.
- I Before E. This rule is familiar to most spellers, but they don't always follow it: "I before E except after C, or when sounding like A as in neighbor or weigh." That's why convenient, grievance, and lenient, are always on lists of commonly misspelled words.
- After C: ceiling, conceit, conceive, deceit, deceive, perceive, receipt, receive
- When sounding like A: beige, eight, freight, neighbor, sleigh, vein, weigh, feint
- Exceptions: The rule has exceptions, which you should learn—conscience, counterfeit, either, foreign, forfeit, height, leisure, neither, science, seize, seizure, species, sufficient, weird
- Doubling Final Consonants. Final consonants are doubled when adding a suffix in two situations:
- When the ending begins with a vowel (-ing, -ed, -age, -er, -ence, -ance, and -al): hitter, occurrence, stoppage, running
- When the last syllable of the word is accented and ends in a single consonant preceded by a single vowel: beginning, incurred, transmittal
- Dealing With Final E's. There are four possibilities when adding a suffix to a word ending with a silent -e:
- When adding a suffix that begins with a vowel (-able, -ing, -ed, -er) drop the silent -e: advancing, larger, movable
- When adding a suffix that begins with a consonant (-ful, -less, -ly, -menu -ness), keep the final e: amusement, suspenseful, likeness
- If a final silent e is preceded by another vowel, drop the e when adding any ending: argue becomes argument or argued, true becomes truly
Exception: When a final e is preceded by a soft g or c, or a long o, the e is kept to maintain proper pronunciation: courageous (the g would have a hard sound if the e was dropped), hopeful (the o would have a soft sound if the e was dropped), changeable, noticeable
- Forming Plurals. Plurals are formed in five ways:
- Add an s to most words: chairs, monkeys, rodeos
- Add an es to words ending in x, s, sh, or ch: churches, foxes, dishes
- When a word ends in a consonant plus y, change y to ie and add s: babies, enemies, discrepancies
- Add es to nouns ending in a long o preceded by a consonant (other than musical terms): buffaloes, embargoes, tomatoes, heroes, mosquitoes, dominoes, volcanoes, potatoes (compare to pianos, sopranos, solos)
- For many words ending in f or fe, change f or fe to v and add s or es: calves, elves, knives, leaves, lives, loaves, thieves, wives, wolves
- Using -cede, -ceed, and -sede. Only one English word ends in -sede: super sede. Only three end in -ceed: exceed, proceed, and succeed. All others use -cede.
The 150 Most Commonly Misspelled Words
Use this list as the basis for starting your own word list. Circle each word that you usually misspell, and add other words that you find especially troublesome. Keep it available for quick reference when you're writing.
The best ways to remember how to spell vocabulary words is to practice using them and memorize them. Here are three approaches:
- Create mnemonics. Creating mnemonics is a great way to improve your spelling. You might remember how to spell separate by recalling that it con tains a rat. Cemetery has three e's in it, as in eeek. The final vowel in stationery is an e, as in envelope.
- Organize and reorganize your list of misspelled words. Group words with the same beginnings or endings, with double vowels, or with double consonants. Use these grouping strategies or come up with your own ways to organize your words.
- Take a traditional spelling test. Give your list to a friend. As he or she reads the words aloud, write them down. Create a shorter list of only those words you misspelled on the test, and work on memorizing those.
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