English words are not exactly the easiest to learn how to spell. There is so little consistency with spelling rules, what few there are, and it’s hardly a phonetic language. 

Words are not often spelled like they are pronounced and forget about trying to figure out how a new word is pronounced by looking at its spelling.

However, all is not lost! There are a few ways that you can learn how to spell and become a better writer. It’s still very much worth learning to spell well, in the days of automatic spell checkers making our lives so much easier.

Following are some tried and true methods to improve your spelling. 

Read More

One of the best ways to quickly improve your spelling is to simply read more. Reading will actually help you in two ways: improving spelling and increasing vocabulary. We’ll explore the vocabulary improvement part in a later post. Let’s look at spelling improvement here.

When you read a lot, you are looking at many hundreds or even thousands of words. When you see a word in print many times, it forms an impression in your brain. Thus, it helps you to remember how to spell that word.

Have you ever written a word or even seen one written by someone else and thought, “That word just doesn’t look right”? Well, that’s because you saw that word spelled correctly numerous times and now that you are seeing it spelled incorrectly, it really stands out.

Reading is an effective way to learn how to spell.

A Few Spelling Rules

In addition to reading, there are a few, and only a few, rules that can help you as well.

“-i” before “-e” except after “-c”

For example, for the most part, with words that have the “-ie” letter combination, “-i” will come before “-e,” as in the following examples:

shield

believe

brief

niece

yield

An important exception comes when the letter combination comes after the letter “-c.” In this case, it switches, as follows:

receive

perceive

ceiling

However, it’s also important to note that with words that have the long “-a” sound, it is also “-e” before “i.” These are words such as:

neighbor

weigh

freight

vein

Finally, don’t be confused by words with a “-ch” letter combination. These still follow the “-i” before “-e” rule.

achieve

mischief

Forming Plurals and Possessives for Words Ending in the Letter “-y”

This one often trips up even those who write well. It’s not so much in how to form plurals and possessives with these words; it’s carelessly interchanging the two.

The plural form for words ending in “-y” is accomplished by changing the “-y” to “-ie” and adding an “-s.”

baby –> babies

utility –> utilities

The babies were sitting next to their parents in the park.

However, the possessive form in created by simply adding an apostrophe + s.

baby –> baby‘s

utility –> utility‘s

The utility’s shareholders wanted to know more about the stock-option plan.

Forming Plurals of Words Ending in the Letter “-o”

This can also be a little tricky, because sometimes we must form the plural of words ending in “-o” by adding just an “-s.” Some examples follow.

autos

memos

mottos

pimentos

pros

However, sometimes we must add “-es” to the end of the word.

echoes

heroes

potatoes

vetoes

Spelling Word Lists

Finally, study lists of the most misspelled words, like the one you can access here. Try to learn how to spell two or three new words every day. Before you know it, you will be a much better speller!