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Using Pronunciation For Spelling Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Introduction

Sounding out words can help you remember how to spell them. Learn how proper pronunciation and sounding out words can improve your spelling.

SLOPPY PRONUNCIATION IS one of the fastest routes to sloppy spelling. If you get in the habit of dropping syllables or letters from words when you speak, you may find yourself dropping them when you write. For example, you might write innermural when the correct spelling is intramural. If you run the first two syllables together rather than enunciating properly, you may erroneously translate the way you pronounce the word to the way you spell it. Another sloppy pronunciation that may result in sloppy spelling is saying inneresting instead of articulating interesting. Or, frigerator instead of refrigerator.

Similarly, many people tend to drop the final g sound when they say words ending in -ing. This habit can cause you to make some pretty silly errors, by failing to remember the -g at the end of the words you mispronounce.

Practicing correct pronunciation will help you to avoid sloppy spelling errors. When you speak, pay attention to what you are saying. Make an effort to enunciate properly and speak your words in the exact way they are meant to be pronounced. You will be amazed at how changing the way you pronounce your words can strengthen your spelling. Once you begin to enunciate more clearly, you will find that it becomes a habit. It's helpful to practice by sounding out every letter of certain words, in order to remember how to spell them. Sometimes exaggerating the pronunciation can help you remember the spelling.

Even if you enunciate well, many words can throw you off because they are not spelled as they are pronounced. If you didn't know how to spell the word restaurant, for example, based on pronunciation, you might think it should be written as resterant.

Here is a list of words that are commonly misspelled either because they are often mispronounced or because their pronunciation is quite different from the way they are spelled.

Pronunciation

TIP: Two vowels written together often have the sound of a single vowel. This can lead to spelling errors. If you are familiar with a word through speaking, but not through writing or reading it, and you don't know how to spell it, you may be thrown off by a vowel combination. This is one reason why using your dictionary to look up any words that you don't know how to spell is a good habit to acquire.

Using the Dictionary

You are probably familiar with the dictionary as a source for definitions. Chances are, you don't use the dictionary's pronunciation guides as frequently. If that is the case, then you might not be familiar with accent and diacritical marks. Not to worry! With a little instruction, you can become a pro at using your dictionary.

First, let's take a look at some of the basic features of a dictionary. For starters, all of the words in the dictionary are listed in alphabetical order. The two words at the top of each page are guide words, indicating the first and last words on the page. Looking at the guide words will let you easily locate the particular word you want to review.

Each word in a dictionary is written two ways: as it is correctly spelled (the entry word) and according to its pronunciation. The correct spelling entry needs little explanation. The second way the word is written can be confusing, however. When the entry is written according to its pronunciation, each sound in the word is marked with a symbol. Most consonants are readily recognizable, with the actual letters representing the sounds. But vowels can have multiple pronunciations, so they are marked differently. The marks for the vowel sounds are called diacritical marks. The beginning of your dictionary will usually give a key to these marks. Diacritical marks may vary from dictionary to dictionary, so you should take a look at the guide of any new dictionary that you use to make sure you know what each mark means.

TIP: What is a syllable? Using the dictionary, we can find the following definition:

Syllable: syl-la-ble—noun

1. An uninterrupted segment of speech consisting of a center of relatively great sonority with or without one or more accompanying sounds of relatively less sonority.

2. One or more written letters or characters representing more or less exactly such an element of speech.

3. The slightest portion or amount of speech or writing.

In other words, syllables are the individual spoken units of a word.

The phonetically spelled words are broken out into syllables and the accented syllables are marked as such. Accents are important because each word of two or more syllables has one syllable that is given more emphasis than the others. In the dictionary, that emphasis is shown by an accent mark ('). Some words have more than one syllable that is accented, with one heavier than the other. The heavier accent is called the primary accent and the other is the secondary accent. Here is what accented words would look like in a dictionary:

    one accent:
    meet' ing
    play' er
    two accents:
    in' for ma' tion
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