Using Word Meanings For Spelling Study Guide
Using Word Meanings For Spelling
THIS MAY SEEM obvious, but when you write a word, you should know what it means. Be aware of what you are trying to say and then make sure that the words you choose convey the right meaning. It is easy to get into the habit of more-or-less knowing what a word means and then using it, whether it is accurate and appropriate or not. This type of lackadaisical word usage can get you into trouble. You may find yourself writing the wrong word in an important essay or letter, not only marring your image in the eyes of the reader but also failing to convey exactly what it is you mean to say.
If you strive to use the right words in all of your writing, however, you will not find yourself in that position. You simply need to think about the words you use and be sure that you know their meanings before using them. When you're not entirely sure of the meaning of a word, but you think it is probably correct in a particular situation, stop and look the word up in your dictionary. Make sure the word is correct. This exercise will help you to learn and to know what words mean, even those that you thought you already knew.
Knowing the meaning of your words is particularly important for homonyms—words that are spelled differently but pronounced alike. It can save you from writing their when you really mean there, or compliment when you want to say complement. Thinking about the meaning of the words you are writing will also help you with frequently confused similar words and word forms. For example:
- lose / loose
- accept / except
- precede / proceed
These word pairs have only subtle sound and spelling differences but they have very different meanings. Do you know the differences? Let's take a look at what each word means, so you can better understand how small differences in spelling can add up to large differences in meaning.
- Lose is a verb that means to come to be without something, such as through accident or theft, so that there is little or no prospect of recovery. Lose is pronounced with a z sound instead of an s sound.
- Loose is an adjective that means the opposite of tight or contained; loose is pronounced with an s sound.
- Accept is a verb that means to receive, admit, or regard as true.
- Except is a preposition that means excluding. It is also a conjunction that means other than.
- Precede is a verb that means to come before.
- Proceed is a verb that means to go forward.
As you can see by comparing the meaning of the two words in each set, they have similar spellings but very different meanings.
Being aware of the meaning of words will help you to avoid embarrassing mistakes. Remember, if you don't know what a word means, take the time to look it up in your dictionary. If you can attach meaning to a word, you may find it easier to remember how to spell it. The homonyms covered in Lesson 24 and the confusing words covered in Lesson 26 will be easier to distinguish once you know their meanings.
You might recall spending lots of time in grade school reviewing list after list of vocabulary words in preparation for your weekly spelling test. Although this thought may bring back bad memories, lists can help you learn what words mean. Using the suggestions laid out in Lesson 1, develop a master word list of confusing words, homonyms, and other words that give you trouble, and look up their definitions in the dictionary. Write them out on flash cards and test yourself whenever you have free time, or at a designated time each day or every week. Reviewing the meaning of common word roots, prefixes, and suffixes (covered in Lessons 5, 6, and 7) will add to your knowledge. You will often be able to deduce the meaning of an unfamiliar word by recognizing the root. Spend time learning the word parts and testing yourself with your word list. Soon, you will fully understand what the words on your list mean, and you will never misuse them again.
TIP: If you are determined to expand your vocabulary and enhance your knowledge of what various words mean, devote a month to the pursuit. Resolve to look up the definition of at least one word every day. It can be a word on the list of difficult or tricky words that you've created or it can be a word that you heard or read that day. However you come across it, look it up. Read the pronunciation and the definitions. Write out the word and its meaning on a flashcard and then test yourself later. All of these activities will do two things. First, they will make looking words up in your dictionary a habit. Second, they will expand your vocabulary and improve your spelling.
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
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