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Proven Techniques to Improve Spelling Help

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 13, 2011

Who Needs Help with Spelling?

Many people need help with spelling. Adults don't necessarily like to talk about it, but they fear spelling and spelling errors as much as children do. And they have good reason. Some are natural spellers, learning to spell and retaining the spellings very easily. For others, spelling is a lifelong problem. If you have spelling problems, however, having a plan of attack really helps.

If you can't rely on yourself to spell words correctly at least 98 percent of the time, spelling is a concern that may cause you considerable worry. Your readers notice the errors immediately. If you are submitting writing to teachers, test examiners, or employers—even friends—poor spelling creates a bad impression. Interestingly, these people may place undue emphasis on spelling, ignoring the brilliant argument, the correct answer, or the dazzling description. Your only choice is to improve your spelling.

Interesting, too, is that even though people use word processors equipped with a spell-checker, there are still times when people need to write. Consequently, although many adults can read well at work, they do all they can to avoid writing because of their fear of and embarrassment over their spelling.

If there is any comfort in it, you should know that poor spellers are not alone. Some very famous, successful people have had significant problems with spelling. One of the more surprising examples is Alfred Mosher Butts, the inventor of the game Scrabble who said to a reporter, "I'm really a terrible speller." Perhaps developing the game was his way of tackling the problem. Other famous people on the poor-spellers list may surprise you. Note that most had learning disabilities that if noticed today would probably be treatable. Many on the list were or are dyslexic (having a disability that makes understanding written language and actually writing language very difficult), which would account for serious spelling problems. Some notable poor spellers include Albert Einstein, Norman Rockwell, Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Thomas Edison, General George Patton, and Charles Schwab.*

This is only a partial list of famous people who had trouble reading and writing. Each one attacked the problem in a different way, but the way was always difficult. Undoubtedly, your spelling problem, if you have one, is not as serious as those you just read about; however, whatever your need—from a simple review to a serious spelling makeover—try the following suggestions and practices to improve your spelling. And by the way, please don't ever send an e-mail or other electronic message without first using the spell-checker!

*Most of these quotes were originally published on Susan Barton's "Bright Solutions for Dyslexia" website. They are reprinted with written permission of Susan Barton. Fuller descriptions were added by Steve Miller. To learn more about dyslexia, go to: www.BrightSolutions.US.

Techniques for Improving Spelling Skills

If spelling is a problem for you, try a more organized approach to learning. First, learning to spell correctly takes time and patience. Never try to learn to spell a whole list of words at one time. Instead, take your time and do a small amount of studying at any one time. Review on a regular basis. The following constitutes just the beginning of a new plan:

  1. Keep a small notebook handy to record words that you have spelled incorrectly or those that are new to you.
  2. When you enter a word into the notebook, divide it into syllables. For example, the word constitute would be listed in the spelling book in syllables first, then with pronunciation help, a definition, and the part of speech:
  3. con-sti-tute (kon-st-toot), comprise, make up (v.)

    Make sure you are spelling and pronouncing the word correctly. Check with a dictionary or use the spelling or dictionary tool on your computer. Use an audible dictionary to hear the correct pronunciation.

  4. Read the word. Say it in syllables.
  5. Try to connect the word to a common spelling rule. For example, niece, I before e except after c.
  6. Close your eyes, and picture the word.
  7. Write the word. Check it. Write it again if necessary.
  8. Review a word until you are sure you know how to spell it.
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