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1.32 Spelling

English spelling is difficult. There is little systematic, logical relationship between how words are spoken and written, and native English speakers often have problems with spelling themselves. However, this is no excuse for you to make spelling mistakes in your work! A piece of academic writing should contain no spelling mistakes whatsoever: they are a sign of careless, rushed work, create a very bad impression and may lose you marks. Indeed, many spelling errors are in fact the result of careless typing, so be careful!

Here are some tips on improving your spelling:

Use a dictionary. If you are not sure about the spelling of a word, look it up! When you're checking your final draft, you could perhaps mark any word you're doubtful about, and then check them all together at the end.

If you find yourself looking up the same word often, make a separate note of it and build up a "hot list" of problem words. We all have them - I always have to check "commitment" (or should that be "committment"??)

If you are building up lists, try to do it systematically. List together "-ie" words and "-ei" words; single consonant words (writing) and double consonant ones (occurred); words which you spell wrongly because of influence from other languages you speak.

Use the spellchecker on the computer. They are generally quick and accurate and should find most of your mistakes. However, it won't find words that are wrongly used but spelt correctly. For example, "There was a brake in transmission for 10 minutes" is fine for the spellchecker, but "brake" should, of course, be "break". Do not use the grammar checker: they are very unreliable.

Also remember that at the moment you can't use a dictionary or spellchecker in examinations.

Develop your own strategies for learning words and their spelling. Learn six a day. Write them on post-its and stick them up around your house/room. Give each other tests. Learn what rules and systems there are.

Here are a couple of exercises:

Exercise A

The following sentences are taken from students' work. Most contain at least one spelling mistake. Find the mistakes and correct them.

1 Low wages mean that companies have litter incentive to invest in the long term.

2 The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Minmum Wage

3 Eglish law may be dfined as a body of rules created by the state.

4 A private prsecution may be brougth by an individual.

5 The information provided by the students was insufficient.

6 The company will sing a two year contract with the Republic of Korea.

7 All the decision marking is based on discussions and concensus.

8 The announcement was made by the Foreing Office at 10.00.

9 The growth of frachising and lower risks involved point to the benfit of the system.

10 Their is an increaseing shift by large companies to more centralized control.

11 Franchising is used in business to describe certain types of licensing arrangements.

12 Civil Law gives legal rigths to individuals.

13 Various tecnics can be used to assess the data obtained.

14 The scours of the information was an official government publication.

15 Wealth is largely determinned by the differences in revenue inflows.


Exercise B

Correct these sentences and then decide how many of the errors would be found by the spellchecker.

1 He estimated that their were probably 20,000 species in the country.

2 The result depends on weather the equipment is correctly aligned.

3 Measurements should be taken at it's centre of gravity.

4 At first site, it was impossible to tell the difference.

5 Could you tell me what time the bus lives?

6 The examination will last for one our.

7 The sign clearly stated that no dogs were aloud.

8 Success will only be achieved threw hard work and dedication.

9 It is advisable to practice for at least two hours a day.

10 Candidates are expected to rite around 500 words.



Links to further resources on spelling




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Steve Gould
Last updated: 4 January 2011

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