SAT Essay Help: Spelling (page 2)
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.
Five 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 (before the suffix) 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- -cede, -ceed, and -sede. Only one English word (supersede) ends in -sede. Only three (exceed, proceed, and succeed) end in -ceed. All others use -cede.
The 150 Most Commonly Misspelled Words
Use this list as the basis for starting one of your own. Circle each word that you usually misspell. Write or type your short list on a sheet of paper. Keep it available for quick reference when you're writing, and add other words that you find especially troublesome.
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 contains a rat. Cemetery has three es in it, as in eeek. The final vowel in stationery is an e, as in envelope. Creating mnemonics is a great way to improve your spelling.
- Organize and reorganize your list of misspelled words. Group words with the same beginnings or endings, with double vowels, or with double consonants. 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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