How to Improve Your Spelling
The English language is truly bizarre and full of inconsistencies, particularly when it comes to spelling. When ‘ph’ and ‘gh’ are meant to sound like ‘f’ and silent letters abound, such as the ‘k’ in ‘knee’ and the ‘b’ in ‘thumb’, it is no wonder that people get confused.
However, mastering spelling is an important skill, which is valued in schools, universities and in the workplace. A number of studies indicate that a major factor in employers rejecting job applicants is spelling errors in resumes (see Blake 2010; Martin-Lacroux 2016; Martin-Lacroux 2017). Even with the use of spellcheckers, errors may slip through the gaps, such as words not used in proper context (e.g., there/their, college/collage and principle/principal) causing meaning to be misconstrued.
The following are some simple yet effective tips to improving your spelling.
Read, read and read some more
Practice makes perfect. Hence, the more you read and experience words, the better you will become at spelling them. Reading a variety of texts, ranging from blog posts to academic journals, can give you the opportunity to understand different writing styles while broadening your vocabulary. Just be sure that what you are reading has proper spelling; if ur readin txts lyk ths, ur spellin isnt gonna get betta.
If you are a student, this is probably a given. You likely have a range of presentations and assignments to write. In the workplace, you write emails daily and may also be involved in writing memos, reports and policies. However, most of this work is done on devices, in which autocorrect and spellcheckers can mask a person’s true spelling difficulties. Research shows that we remember words better ‘when they have been written down rather than when they are typed’, so it may be worth incorporating more handwriting into your routine (Smoker, Murphy and Rockwell 2009, 1744). Perhaps a starting point would be to take handwritten notes in lectures; we have discussed the disadvantages of laptop note-taking in our article ‘Should Laptops be Banned in Lecture Theatres?’.
List commonly misspelled words
If you find that you struggle to spell a word or make the same spelling error repeatedly, write the misspelled word and the correct spelling next to it. Make sure this list is in a handy place, so you can review it regularly until you are confident that you can spell the word correctly.
Learn spelling rules
The English language may seem nonsensical at times, but it is governed by a complex set of spelling rules. This factsheet created by the University of New England highlights a range of the most common spelling rules that students struggle with. Knowing spelling rules will help you identify common spelling difficulties. A common tool used for spelling is mnemonics, which helps to give meaning as to why a word is spelled a certain way. We also recommend you read our articles ‘English Spelling Rules’ and ‘Australian/British versus American English Spelling’.
Play word games
Who says that learning to spell needs to be boring? There are lots of board games, such as Scrabble, Boggle and Quiddler that encourage spelling practise. You could also access a wide range of interactive spelling apps to reinforce your learning.
We hope that these tips can help you achieve more competence and confidence in spelling.
Academic Skills Office. n.d. ‘Spelling rules’. University of New England.
Blake, Heidi. 2010. ‘Half of employers bin job applications with spelling errors’. The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/7151528/Half-of-employers-bin-job-applications-with-spelling-errors.html
Classen, Albrecht. n.d. ‘English language: Crazy inconsistencies’. The University of Arizona. http://aclassen.faculty.arizona.edu/content/english-language-crazy-inconsistencies
Edublox Online Tutor. n.d. ‘What are spelling mnemonics?’ https://www.edubloxtutor.com/spelling-mnemonics/
Martin-Lacroux, Christelle and Alain Lacroux. 2016. ‘Do Employers Forgive Applicants’ Bad Spelling in Résumés?’ Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 80 (3): 321–335. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329490616671310
Martin-Lacroux, Christelle. 2017. ‘“Without the spelling errors I would have shortlisted her…”: The impact of spelling errors on recruiters’ choice during the personnel selection process’. International Journal of Selection and Assessment 25 (3): 276–283. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijsa.12179
Murray, Lindsey. 2018. ‘25 Board Games That Are Like Scrabble But Even Better.’ Good Housekeeping. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/childrens-products/board-games/g19724764/best-word-board-games/
Smoker, Timothy, Carrie Murphy and Alison Rockwell. 2009. ‘Comparing Memory for Handwriting versus Typing’. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting 52 (22): 1744-1747. https://doi.org/10.1177/154193120905302218