Spelling is a fundamental aspect of the English language. It is an important skill that helps us communicate effectively in writing and a simple spelling mistake could change the whole meaning of a sentence!
How can I improve my English spelling?
Unfortunately, spelling is one of the most challenging aspects of the English language, especially for non-native speakers. Although you can learn the different English spelling rules over time, there are some words that don’t follow these rules and you will simply have to learn how to memorise the spelling of these words. The good news is that anyone can improve their English spelling with consistency, practice and dedication. If you’re in the process of learning English, there are some effective strategies that you can implement to improve your spelling:
- Learn commonly misspelled words
This is the most obvious and one of the most helpful tips to implement as early as possible in your English language learning journey. Some English words are so tough to spell that even native speakers often get them wrong. Try and take the time to learn some commonly misspelled words, such as:
- Beware of ‘ie’ and ‘ei’ spelling
As you will notice in the above list, many of these commonly misspelt words have ‘ie’ or ‘ei’ in them. Often, English speakers can get mixed up as to when they should use which variation. Generally, a simple rule to remember is that when you have a long ‘e’ vowel sound, spell it with ‘ie’. e.g. achieve, belief, diesel, niece, relieve. However, in words that have the letter ‘c’, we spell it as ‘ei’ after the ‘c’. e.g. ei after c - ceiling, conceit, deceive, receipt, perceive. A good way to remember this is - ‘i’ before and ‘e’ except when there’s a ‘c’! Words that do not have the long vowel ‘i’, follow the usual order, that is, ‘e’ before ‘i’. e.g. neighbour, leisure, height. Of course, there are exceptions! The words friend, ancient, science are common deviants from this rule.
- Learn the spelling rules
Along with the ‘e before I’ rule, The English language has many different rules when it comes to spelling. Some of these rules are straightforward, while others are more complex or might not make sense to you. Learning these rules can help you spell words correctly, even if you've never seen them before. For example, there are rules for adding suffixes to words, such as ‘-able’ or ‘-ible’. There are also rules for doubling consonants before adding a suffix, such as the ‘-ing’ suffix. Learning these rules can save you a lot of time and frustration when trying to spell words correctly.
- Build your vocabulary
This tip is one of the most obvious ones – the more English content you read, watch, or listen to, the wider your vocabulary will become. Building your vocabulary is an essential step towards improving your spelling and if you expand the sources you are using to practise English, you will familiarise yourself with words that you may not otherwise come across.
Reading is an excellent way to expand your vocabulary. Try to read different books, articles, and other materials that interest you. Make a note of any new words you come across and look up their meanings. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with the spelling of different words.
- Practise spelling
Like anything else, practice makes perfect and this is especially true when it comes to spelling. Try to set aside some time every day to practise your spelling. You can use spelling tests, word puzzles, or online spelling games to help you improve your spelling skills. There are also many apps you can download on your phone so you can practise your English language spelling skills wherever you happen to be.
- Use mnemonics
Mnemonics are memory aids that can help you remember how to spell certain words. They can be especially helpful for words that are difficult to spell, have unusual spellings or don’t follow the English language rules you have learned. For example, to remember how to spell the word 'separate,' you could use the phrase ‘there's a rat in separate.’
- Use a spell checker
Spell checkers are an excellent and easily accessible tool to help improve your spelling. Most word processors and writing apps come with a built-in spell checker that can help you catch spelling errors. However, it's important to remember that spell checkers can sometimes make mistakes, or it may give you the American spelling instead of English. This means its always necessary to double-check your writing and use a spell checker as a tool to help you improve your spelling, rather than relying on it completely.
- Get feedback
Getting feedback from others is a valuable way to improve your spelling and overall English language skills. Ask a friend or family member to read over your work and point out any spelling errors or you could hire a professional editor or proof-reader to help you with your writing. When receiving feedback, it's important to be open to criticism and willing to learn from your mistakes. Use the feedback to identify areas where you need to improve but also try and remind yourself of the things you are doing well.
- Don’t rely on spelling words the way they are pronounced
Sometimes we drop letters while we speak or change the vowel sounds. For example, we drop the ‘d’ sound in ‘handkerchief’ and pronounce it as ‘han-ker-chief’ and ‘yacht’ has and ‘a’ but is pronounced as ‘yot’.
- Remember silent letters
Following on from the rule above, you should familiarise yourself with words that have silent letters in them. This means you include these letters when writing, but don’t pronounce them when you’re speaking. Here are some classic everyday examples:
Silent B - debt, doubt, dumb
Silent C - muscle, disciple, descend
Silent P – psychology, receipt
Improving your English spelling over time
There is no right or wrong way to get better at something – you just need to keep working at it. This is especially true for learning a new language. With time, consistency and effort, using these spelling rules will become second nature to you and you won’t need to think twice about where to place the ‘I’ or the ‘e’ or why a word that sounds like ‘yot’ has a ‘ch’ in it when its written! Keep practising, keep writing and keep speaking in English and you’ll be on your way to perfect English spelling in no time.