This particular link allows you to think of that old nemesis, spelling. It is much more than the ability to place "I" before "E" except after "C." I will place words on this web page that are easily confused. Some of these words will be spelled alike but sound different. We called those words, homophones.
Consider this page as the spelling problem of the month. First, let's attack these two words that are confused on students' papers:
Were is a verb of the "to be" family. Where describes an adverb and tells location. If you pronounce the words too quickly in writing, you hear "were" instead of "where." If your language is not English, you might hear "where" without the "h." Be careful in your proofreading of these kinds of problems.
Students are teaching me everyday new spellings for the word, convenient, or convenience. The following variations have occurred on papers:
Students have puzzled me with the spelling of "quiet." The following variations have occurred:
The first word means "quit," as in one quits a job. The second word, "quite" would be used in the phrase, quite happy or quite sad. Neither one of these words satisfies the spelling of "quiet," as in quiet reflection. Be careful what word you intend when you write. Pronounce the word: KWI-it.
Certain students have asked me about the difference between "effect" and "affect." Always think of "affect" as the verb, while "effect" means result and is usually used as a noun. Dianna Booher in her book, Good Grief, Good Grammar, goes further and defines the words the following way:
Let's say we wrote the following: The director effected the writing of the budget. That sentence is technically correct, because the meaning is "bringing about." That is an exception to the normal writing of effect and affect. Let's try some exercises from a brand new book called Woe Is I by Patricia T. O'Conner, an editor for The New York Times Book Review,:
O'Conner points out that "affect" when used as a noun and pronounced with an accent on the first syllable has a psychological meaning of "feeling." For example, Termites display a lack of affect.
The next set of words we will attack include the following:
The individual, whose name was on the list, appeared before the judge.
Note that "whose" is used to modify individual and explain what individual was considered important. Let's now try an example with "who's":
The student , who's a member of the class, reported his employer kept him late.
In the last case "who's" is interpreted as "who is." The sentence now reads in a different style.
In the last few weeks I have noticed a growing number of spelling problems on memos and other reports. These errors are sometimes the result of hurried proofreading or spelling misunderstandings. Here is an example:
Unfortunately, the word, ruffly, does not exist. Perhaps the student was thinking of "ruffled." The second spelling is, of course, correct.
To review, homophones mean words that sound alike but are spelled differently. We have numerous examples in the English language of these difficulties. Let's take some common problems from student papers:
Let's say you are starting to write a sentence: "In the can't decide which spelling of gathering my data, I discovered. . ." Should I spell the word, coarse or course? How do I know the difference? Coarse means a list than fine example, such as a coarse cloth. The material leaves a great deal to be desired. Course, though, means in the normal fixing of events. Course will work. I should say: "In the course of gathering my data, I discovered . . ." Coarse can also mean lacking refinement or using vulgar or indecent language, for example. "Course" means movement in a particular direction. We would not say "source offerings." We would say "course offerings." Source refers to the origin of something. We speak of the source of a river. Source means the beginning or the fountainhead.
I will never forget the paraphrasing of Mark Twain's expression in talking about the precision of words: There is quite a difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
When a student finds a spelling problem with suffixes or vowels and consonants at the end of the end, the student should look for the consonant. Let's take an example:
The second choice is correct, because the singular word, rely, has a consonant, "y," at the end of the word. That tips the writer to change the ending to "ies" instead of relys.
The employee's turned in their performance evaluations on time.Were all words in the previous sentence correctly spelled? Did you see any discrepancies? Did you catch employee's?
When opening the dictionary, pay particular attention to the "dots" between syllables in words. Those dots indicate syllabication of words, not how to spell the words. Let's take a word like turnover. These days most words are run together, but the second spelling of turnover shows it spelled turn-over. In that case, the writer should always prefer the first spelling, turnover, as the preferred spelling. Another example may help. The word, co-workers, is now spelled coworkers. Modern spellings of words tend to run most of the syllables together.
Two words noted on certain students' papers include the following:
When do you use each one? Unorganized refers to a haphazard state. Disorganized refers to organizations and companies and how unconnected they have become. I would use disorganized to refer to companies and organizations. At times, you may use unorganized to refer to an individual. Unorganized can also mean lacking unity. When the word, disorganized, is used, you are destroying the systematic arrangement of something like an organization.
"Unsatisfaction" does not exist in the dictionary. Normally, prefer "dissatisfaction," meaning displeased or not pleasing. Keep a eagle eye for the "dis."
Modern dictionaries, especially Webster's latest, show certain words now run together. We no longer need hyphens in words, such as print-out. Expect most words you spell these days to run together. A representative list follows that you may encounter in your daily writing:
cellphone (source: Encarta)
food server (In Webster's 10th edition, food service is shown as two words.)
troubleshoots or troubleshooting
workforce (not according to American Heritage Dictionary)
Students continue to misspell fund-raiser in most of their business documents. You even see Fund-raiser as one word on some of the placards and fliers around campus. The word should be spelled with one hyphen: fund-raiser. I had a lengthy discussion with a student who worked for a fund-raising organization a few semesters ago. She maintained the Company spelled the word as one word. Unfortunately, current dictionaries, including Webster's 10th edition, do not agree with her. Go for the spelling, fund-raiser, when in doubt, on any kind of business writing.
When you spell a word, you have to become aware of how letters are needed in the word. Never guess at a word; always check the dictionary for the correct and preferred spelling. Think about the context of the sentence and the word. What spelling fits the situation? Students spell words that look right. Would you like some examples?
privlage or priviledge
in leu of paying rent
in lieu of paying rent
Did you notice that the student fell into the trap of saying "prevail" instead of checking the correct spelling, "prevalent"? Which one of the other words is correct? Do you know? Watch out for what we call "spelling demon" words. Do you know the meaning of:
You expect someone at your house. You invite everyone to the party except that individual. Except is used as a preposition in that case. You accept an invitation to go to work for that firm. Use these words with more precision.
Let's try some exercises. Is this word, "definiation," spelled correctly? How do you know? Is this word, "schedual," spelled correctly? You may check the web, "Answers Mysteriously Appear," for your answers later.
Sometimes students omit letters from words and expect those words to be spelled correctly. You might see the following word, "aquire," in print. Is the word misspelled? Your answer is no. Why? You need to spell the word, "acquire," as shown in the dictionary with the extra "c." If you see this spelling, "inate," is the word spelled correctly? The answer is no. Always check the spelling as "innate." Tough, huh? You need to always check that dictionary. Words look right, but you need a reliable source to prove your point.
Even though your texts, Guffey and On-the-Job Communications, for examples, give list after list of confused words, you may want some more. Such an example follows:
Which word would you use when you speaking of someone's conscience? The other word means you are aware of your surroundings; your conscience requires a different spelling. Otherwise, you are awake; you are conscious.
Beginning writers often mistake "obtain" for the special use of "attain." You attain a degree, but you obtain a job interview. Obtain means you acquire something; you attain by achieving something. A planned action or effort occurs when you "obtain" something. You come into the possession of something when you "attain."
Other words that you wouldn't think are confusing sometimes crop up. A representative list follows:
hassleIf a person guesses at the spelling or pictures the spelling as if hearing another language, then the word, hazel, sounds like hassle. We would be speaking of hazel nuts, not a hassle in getting classes.
closeOne always thinks the spell checker will solve all problems. Yet, look at these spellings and how different they are:
right of way
right awayYou are writing a sentence and saying: a serious of telephone calls. That statement does not ring true. You need to say: a series of telephone calls. Now, the sentence makes more sense. The spell checker would recognize the word as correctly spelled when the context of the sentence does not make sense. In the second set, the meanings are diametrically opposed. Right of way implies a specific lane or crossing a driver may use. The other meaning suggests something or some action should be done soon or in the next minute.
Sometimes a word looks right without checking the dictionary. Always check the dictionary. Such examples of incorrect spelling follow:
cubicalHow do you know which one is right? The second one is right and correct, according to the dictionary.
It got pretty chili in the center and was not a friendly environment for the clients.I noticed that Hector was very exited in his new job.
Did you find the errors? It is easy to leave out letters in words. Take more time to spell each word correctly. Do not assume the letters are in the word you have just spelled. The spell checker will not solve all problems.
Often when you write a word, such as "influencial," you think it is right. A closer examination reveals you need to know where to place the "t." The word should have been spelled "influential." Sometimes people spell words because they "sound" right. That is a dangerous assumption. For example, a person can spell "necisitie" when the person meant to write "necessity." Your best friend at this point remains the dictionary. Never guess at a word. Know you have the correct spelling because you have looked up the word.
Sometimes in the spelling of words students think they almost have the key to the spelling. They spell the following word, and it looks right:
carrer or carrier.
They meant to spell the word, "career." That sounded right, but no attempt was made to check the dictionary. The spell checker may have missed the word. Don't be half right; check the word for its correct spelling.
Context is so important in trying to spell words. Do you mean emphasize, emphasis, or emphases? How do you know the difference? You emphasize an idea. You record the idea for emphasis. You provide numerous emphases in reviewing the proposal. Each word has its own special meaning and spelling.
Let's take a sentence from a student's memorandum where the word is, unfortunately, misspelled. The sentence reads:
After many years passed buy, Chuck Wallace received an offer from the The Theatre Chain and he came as the CEO of our company and brought Wendy with him and that is when she became a vice president.
Think about: Granted, the previous sentence is awkwardly constructed. Did you spot in bold the problem with the spelling? Obviously, the sentence needs better punctuation. Perhaps this sentence is a good example of how not to pack your sentence with too many ideas. The length of the sentence may have contributed to the problem with the spelling. The two words confused are:
We walked by the road. We buy goods. One is a preposition, and the other one is a verb. One of most confusing sets of words includes the following:
We asked for assistance in making our purchases. We asked for an assistant to help us complete the work. Both words are nouns, but the meanings are different. Take more care which one you use.
moralMoral in its spelling concerns our upbringing. How moral are you? Is there any way to remember the difference between moral and morale? Think of ale when you write morale. You speak of employee morale. How well does everyone like everyone else? How well does everyone pull together on the team? That is an instance of morale. Morale is the mental and emotional enthusiasm of a situation. Moral relates to ethical behavior. It relates to the righteous or virtuous principles underlying behavior. Never confuse moral(s) with morale.
On certain papers I have noticed confusion between "predominately" and "predominantly." For most papers you need to use "predominantly" when the meaning implies mainly, prevailing, or dominating. Be careful about how you spell this word. As you can see, the word is used as an adverb.
Three words become troublesome when you are writing insight, insite, incite. You "incite" a riot. You provide "insight" into the material being studied. The word, "insite," does not exist. As always, take care in how you spell and use these words.
- its'(used in possession)
- mislead(past tense)
After doing this exercise, check you answers on another web link. Good luck! Did you learn something about your spelling concerns?
copyright(c)G. Jay Christensen, All Rights Reserved
Last updated Tuesday, August 27, 2002