Spelling Pro Tips!

(oh, the inevitable irony of a spelling mistake in this post)

Having family members who struggle with spelling simple words, and surprisingly Cambridge-bound friends who struggle with simple words, I feel that I have spelt well and often. These are tips for improving the way you put arbitrary characters that are representative of meaning into arbitrary sequences, some of which are deemed to be arbitrarily ‘correct’ because screw you, society hates you.

1) Microsoft Word is the tool of the Devil

…although I’m using Word to write this up now in my free periods at school. The red squiggly line of correcting is useful for avoiding stupid mistakes in grade-defining essays, but is harmful in terms of making you a better speller, an ability that will help you in exams, which are often devoid of spell-checkers, and contribute more to your final mark.

I try to correct my mistakes myself, by re-reading the incorrect word, and finding the problem with it; this can often be a simply typo, but I was able to correct my decade-long misspelling of ‘available’ (which I wrote as ‘avaliable’) by actually checking the placement of letters next to each other, rather than just dismissing the mistake as a typing error and following the first suggestion in the drop-down menu.

2) Read things. All of them.

This is a wider point for expanding your vocabulary, but reading complex and, initially, difficult texts will not only show you new words to use, but that they can actually be used; I’ve known the word ‘perspire’ for years, but it wasn’t until I’d seen the word written in a book that I believed it could be practically useful in a text, I’d always said ‘sweat’ before.

I think that this mental block is an important one to get over; I feel that we shun away from learning that which we don’t think is useful – why learn to spell a long-ass word if you’re never going to use it? Seeing terms like ‘onomatopoeic’ shows you that they can be used in an intelligent and meaningful sense, and therefore are worth learning.

3) Write disjointedly

This one works for me because I write in detached, capital letters by hand anyway, but splitting up the letters of difficult words can help you spell them because you’ll see the word as consisting of individual letters that can be moved around and altered until correct, rather than approaching difficult words as jumbled messes of curly shapes that you’ll always get wrong.

Essentially, compartmentalising whole words, whose meaning you cannot change, into the order and placement of individual letters, an order that you can change, furthers the above idea: that misspelt words are mistakes waiting to be corrected, not permanent problems with you as a person.

But only split up letters like this in your notes, and for revisionary purposes; otherwise people tend to think you’re an idiot or your hand is crippled to the extent that you can’t write joined-up.

4) Use logic

Similar to the idea of splitting words up into manageable and malleable letters, approach letters themselves as workable tools to be used to create words, like Lego blocks, as opposed to intricate combinations to be rote-learned, like the codes to a safe.

It will therefore be easier to spell new words, or ones you forget the correct spelling of, as you’ll be able to piece together the correct order of letters, or at least a coherent order of letters, using basic linguistic knowledge; lots of reading and writing helps with this knowledge, and will make using letters as individual expressive tools easier.

5) Rote learn words

This is both the basis of learning words, and an effective means of cramming spellings at the last minute, before an exam; there are a boat-load of techniques for this – with my personal preference being to write out each questionable term thrice, test yourself on all of them, and then re-write incorrect spellings three times, and lather, rinse repeat until you know every word in the English language – but it’s important that you find what works for you, like all revision techniques; if you’re a visual learner, draw diagrams or something, I don’t know.

Obviously, this technique is very useful for learning a foreign language, where the particular linguistic characteristics of that tongue often render the ‘Use logic’ advice unhelpful. Rote-learning can be especially effective for common words, like regular verb endings.

Follow all this advice, and you could end up with a blog of your own, with fourteen viewers, half of which inexplicably come from Singapore. How aspirational!


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