How to improve your spelling
tips and guidance notes on basic spelling skills
1. You can improve your spelling skills by reading and writing as much as possible – and checking your written work.
2. If you are not sure about the correct spelling of a word, look it up in a good dictionary.
3. The best ways to improve your spelling are:
- learn commonly mis-spelled words
- learn the common rules of spelling
- learn good spelling strategies
Commonly mis-spelled words
4. The most commonly mis-spelled words are probably there/their, its/it’s, to/too/two, and are/our.
5. This problem is caused because these words sound the same as each other. Here’s how to tell them apart.
6. There refers to a place, whereas their means belonging to them.
The table is over there, in the corner
there refers to a place
We are going to their house
their means belonging to them
7. Its means belonging to, whereas It’s is a shortened form of It is.
The dog is in its basket
its means belonging to the dog
It’s too late now
It’s means It is too late
8. To means towards, whereas too means very or in addition, and two is the number 2.
We are going to the concert
here to means towards
It was too cold for swimming
means it was very cold
He ate two chocolate bars
means the number 2
9. Are is part of the verb ‘to be’ – as in we are, whereas our means belonging to us.
We are in the same class at school
This is the verb ‘to be’, as in I am/we are
We have flowers in our garden
That is, the garden belongs to us
Common spelling rules
10. Almost all words have only one correct spelling – but there are occasional exceptions. Judgement for instance can also be spelled judgment.
11. One of the easiest rules to remember is I before E, except after C – but you need to be careful, because there are plenty of exceptions.
I before E
believe – chief – friend – thief
C followed by EI
ceiling – receive – deceit – conceive
either – neither – foreign – height – seize – leisure
Doubling of consonants
12. If a word ends in a vowel and a single consonant, double the consonant before adding -ing or -ed.
13. If the vowel is unstressed, or if there are two vowels, do not double the consonant.
14. If the word ends in -c, change the -c to -ck before adding the ending.
Commonly mis-spelled words
The following words are often spelt wrongly. There is no short way round this problem. You simply have to learn the correct spelling.
acceptable – double c, not -ible.
accommodation – double c and double m
achieve – i before e except after c
assess – two lots of double s
believe – i before e except after c
communicate – double m
convenient – i before e except after c
definite – -ite, not -ate
disappear – double p [dis+appear]
disappoint – double p [dis+appoint]
necessary – one c, double s
receive – i before e, except after c
recommend – double c [re+commend]
stationary – means not moving – use a
stationery – paper we write on – use e
success – double c, double s
weird – an exception to the rule
NB! One final point. Using a spelling-checker is not cheating. You should use one to check your work – and learn correct spellings at the same time.
Test yourself with our easy spelling quiz
© Roy Johnson 2009
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