Tips for better spelling

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Tips for better spelling

better_spelling-300x224Improving your spelling is a very important factor in getting a good result in the IELTS writing, reading and listening tests. Incorrectly spelled words in reading and listening can mean that your answer is marked as incorrect, and in the writing it can mean lost points for the vocabulary section of your grade.

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Modern technology, although very useful, has made poor spelling increasingly common even amongst native speakers – autocorrect on phones and computers has often corrected our errors, so when we come to write them on paper the error has become the natural way of spelling.

On this page we have gathered some useful hints to help you get better spelling skills, not just for IELTS but also for life in general.

Tip #1 for better spelling: write it down

It is a scientifically proven fact that the more you write a word using a pen and paper (not a computer) the more chance you have of remembering the spelling. Our brains process the word as an image, which is why sometimes a misspelled word can simply ‘look’ wrong even before you have identified the actual error.

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Doing this to or three times a day for a few days in a row will help you get used to the shape of the word with correct spelling, making it easier to repeat under exam pressure.

Tip #2 for better spelling: find your weaknesses

Very often, people find particular words difficult to spell. Work through the vocabulary section of these pages, and practice spelling the words without looking to find which words you find difficult, then add them to your own notebook. Whenever you have a spare minute, simply write the word repeatedly (as recommended in Tip #1).

Tip #3 for better spelling: have realistic expectations

Limit the number of new words that you are trying to learn to spell, and write them in your notebook. Don’t write every word you have problems with – just work on 5 at a time, repeatedly writing them down then checking over a period of a few days or more. Once you are sure you have remembered the spelling, add some new words. Adding too many words at one time becomes confusing, and spelling and meaning are often only partly or incorrectly remembered.

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Tip #4 for better spelling: use memory techniques

This can often help in situations where you repeatedly spell a word incorrectly. For example, is the correct spelling SEPARATE or SEPERATE? One way to help you remember is that this word always has a rat in the middle, so the correct answer is SEPARATE.

Another memory technique is to spell a phrase or sentence from the letters of the word you are having trouble with. For example, take the word NECESSARY – this could be remembered as ‘Never Eat Crisps, Eat Salad Sandwiches And Remain Young’.

Tip #5 for better spelling: learn some of the rules that will help you

Spelling rules in English 1

1. Using i before e

The rule: ‘use i before e, except after c

Examples (no c directly before):

believe, chief, niece, piece, thief

Examples (after c):

deceive, receive, ceiling

OR when the word has an “eh” sound

Examples (with ‘aye’ sound)

weigh, freight, neighbour

Remember that there are ALWAYS exceptions to spelling rules in English!

Common exceptions: efficient, weird, height, neither, ancient, caffeine, foreign.

Spelling rules in English 2

2. Spelling words with -ible and –able

Not sure whether to spell a word with ‘-ible’ or ‘-able’? One general spelling rule is that if you take the end of the word away and you are still left with a complete word, you can usually (but not always!) use -able. If not, use -ible.

For example:

  • dependable = depend + able
  • adorable + adore + able
  • possible =poss + ible

Spelling rules in English – more examples of words that end in -able

adaptable; amiable; believable; capable; changeable; comfortable; conceivable; debatable; desirable; disposable; durable; excitable; excusable; fashionable; impressionable; justifiable; knowledgeable; laughable; likeable; lovable; manageable; measurable; noticeable; objectionable; operable; payable; peaceable; pleasurable; preferable; reliable; serviceable; sizeable; suitable; tolerable; transferable.

Remember that there are ALWAYS exceptions to spelling rules in English!

Note the differences, where some words, e.g. knowledgeable ‘keep’ the ‘e’ from the complete word knowledge, but others ‘drop’ the ‘e’, e.g. believable – no ‘e’ from the ‘complete’ word believe.

Spelling rules in English – more examples of words that end in -ible

illegible; responsible; eligible; incredible; reversible; invincible; suggestible; contemptible; feasible; negligible; susceptible; convertible; flexible; ostensible; tangible; gullible; terrible; horrible; plausible.

Remember that there are ALWAYS exceptions to spelling rules in English! Some of the words in the list above do not follow the rules…. You just need to learn them.

Spelling rules in English 3

3. Spelling words with -ance and –ence

The endings -ance and -ence are used to change the verb form of a word into a noun form, or to turn an adjective into a noun.

For example:

  • perform (verb) becomes performance (noun)
  • intelligent (adjective) becomes intelligence (noun)

You will mostly just need to learn which words are spelled in which way; however, there are a couple of spelling rules in English that can help you with spelling words ending in -ance and -ence correctly.

a. If the word is formed from a verb that ends in -y, -ure, -ear or –ate then according to the general rule the ending will usually be  -ance.

For example:

  • comply (verb ending in -y) becomes compliance (noun)
  • endure (verb ending in -ure) becomes endurance (noun)
  • appear (verb ending in -ear) becomes appearance (noun)
  • tolerate (verb ending in -ate) becomes tolerance (noun)

Spelling rules in English – more examples of words to learn that end in -ance

acceptance; allowance; appliance; assistance; attendance; balance; circumstance; clearance; distance; disturbance; dominance; fragrance; grievance; guidance; ignorance; importance; instance; insurance; maintenance; nuisance; relevance; resemblance; substance.

b. If the word is formed from a verb that ends in ere then according to the general rule the ending will usually be  -ence.

For example:

  • adhere (verb ending in -ere) becomes adherence (noun)
  • cohere (verb ending in -ere) becomes coherence (noun)

Remember that there are ALWAYS exceptions to spelling rules in English!

Example of exception: perseverance (from verb persevere)

Spelling rules in English – more examples of words to learn that end in -ence

absence; affluence; audience; coincidence; conference; confidence; consequence; convenience; difference; essence; evidence; existence; experience; influence; innocence; insistence; patience; preference;  presence; recurrence; reference; sentence; sequence; silence.

 

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