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Casting a "Spell"

A person's ability to spell can indicate attention to detail. Misspelings and mis-use of homophones can result in misunderstndng. Take some time to be careful about communication.

Admittedly, English is an easy language to misspell.  Because the history of English is long and varied, it has acquired words from a variety of sources: It has Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic roots, along with adoptions from Romance languages like Latin, Italian, Spanish, and French, as well as Greek.    Thus, the language presents a special challenge, not only for those learning it as a second language, but for native speakers as well.  Phonetic rules often have exceptions to them, resulting in confusion.  For example, while many people can recite the “i before e rule,” they find it difficult to decide between “recieve and receive” and “belief or beleif”   if they’re not near a spell-checker.  However, relying on a word processor isn’t foolproof either, as the program may ignore a misspelled word because it actually exists in its dictionary, or it provides an alternate word that doesn’t apply in the sentence. 

For example, many English words have homophones.  These types of words sound the same but have different spellings and definitions. The three homophones “there, their, they’re” are quite often confused and misused, as are “too/ two/ to;” “your/ you’re;” “here/ hear;” “stationary/stationery;” and a host of others.    In addition to homophones, English has a class of words that are close enough in pronunciation to result in misuse; affect/effect, accept/ except, are/our, then/than represent just a tip of the iceberg.  Furthermore, some misspellers’ handbook somewhere contains the words “definately and alot,” as these are invariably the wrong choices for the actual words—“definitely and a lot.” 

The advent of “instant messaging” or “IMing” has added to the proliferation of bad spelling.  Because the parties involved communicate in real time with one another, they use shortcuts.  Thus, “Are you coming tonight?”  becomes “ r u cuming 2 nite.”   Clearly, IM-ing is only one of the sources of the problem, as many people do not distinguish between informal and formal writing. 

So what?  What’s the big deal?  While these errors may not signal an egregious misuse of the language in most people’s views, they do intrude on a reader’s understanding of the writer’s intention.  In formal writing such as a student essay or a report for work, they show inattention to detail. 

So how can anyone combat the proliferation of misspelling?  While the phonetic approach to spelling has some drawbacks, it certainly presents a good starting
point.  The phonics rules do provide a framework for decoding words. Thus, if someone has memorized the aforementioned “i-e” rule, he has a starting point that might actually yield the correct result.  Furthermore, memorization is an important component of spelling.   Memorization has received some unwarranted bad press in recent decades, but in most cases, it works quite effectively.  Some facts simply need to be memorized.  Teachers can assist their students in improving their spelling by providing regular practice and by correcting misspelled words in subjects other than language arts.  In addition they can implement classroom practices that will aid the process. For example, each student can keep a list of his own typically misspelled words (correctly spelled, of course) that he can refer to as needed in his writing.  Adults can maintain their own lists as well. 

Another excellent method for improving spelling is reading.  The more an individual reads, and the less he relies on technology to do his work for him, the more apt he is to absorb good habits in spelling and writing in general. 
He learns to recognize the correct way to spell through recognition and
then perhaps trial and error.  With a little effort, any motivated individual can cast a good spell. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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