A college freshman asked me how to spell “valiant” and when I did, he wondered why it was not “-ent”. He asked how I knew that and I had no idea how to respond! All along, I’ve been a terrific speller, even winning some spelling bees in my younger years. But after some thoughtful consideration and reference to my classes on teaching English, I have come up with a few helpful tips:
1. The number one thing that bolsters your spelling ability is reading. The two are so inherently linked that it is almost impossible to be a good speller without being a good reader.
2. Exposing yourself to different types of text will increase your knowledge of the way things are spelled. Through reading newspapers, novels, blogs, even billboards, your brain memorizes spelling patterns.
3. Becoming familiar with root words will also help. We get confused with prefixes and suffixes sometimes and forget the word’s spelling. By singling out the root word, we take away half the problem!
4. Writing frequently also helps you to spell with more precision. You will quickly learn which words “look right” and if not, never hesitate to consult a dictionary. Once you’ve written a word correctly a few times, you will start to remember this.
5. Familiarize yourself with spelling rules. These include but are not limited to:
- “i before e except after c”
- “The letter y preceded by a consonant changes to i before a suffix”
- “Most words drop the final silent e before a suffix beginning with a vowel”
- “When adding a suffix to a word that ends with a single consonant after a single vowel and stressing the last syllable in the pronunciation of the word, the final consonant is doubled.”