So why is English spelling such a nightmare? One reason is that English has adopted words from many other languages, sometimes we keep the spelling and sometimes we change it to suit us. In Olde Worlde England words were written as they sounded (phonetically) and so one word could often be spelt in many different ways, seemingly you only need to look at original Shakespeare manuscripts to see this chaos in action. Eventually spelling was standardised and set in stone in numerous dictionaries, but the chaos peeks through from time to time. As you learn English you will notice the pronunciation of a word often bears no resemblance to the way it is spelt, (sorry) usually you will find a historical reason for this.
The good news is that although many English words have irregular spellings there are some rules that can help you. Watch out though, for every rule there are always some exceptions (sorry)!
English has over 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 separate sounds, more than any other language, think of it as a game rather than a chore.
- Keep a notebook of words you find difficult to spell. Underline the part of the word that you find most difficult.
- Use a dictionary, not a spell-checker! OK use a spell-checker, but don't rely on it. Spell-checkers don't check for meaning, the most common misspelt words I have seen on the net are there and their.
- Learn words with their possible prefixes and suffixes.
- Learn the rules, but don't rely on them. As I mentioned earlier for every rule there is at least one exception. For example:-
|i before e except after c|
|One of the first English spelling rules that was learnt in most schools is "i before e except after c". This only works when the pronunciation of the word is like a long ee as in shield.|
piece, relief, niece, priest, thief
but after c
conceive, conceit, receive, receipt
|when A or I is the sound |
it's the other way round
|with an 'a' sound - deign, eight, neighbour, feign, reign, vein, weight |
with an 'i' sound either, feisty, height, neither, sleight
|Exceptions (sorry): |
seize, weird, conscientious, conscience, efficient . . .
Silent LettersThere are lots of silent letters in English. Yes, we stick letters in a word and then we don't pronounce them (sorry).
|For example:- |