June 17, 2016

How too avoid spelling misteaks (Or: How to avoid spelling mistakes)


man wearing blue and yellow rubber shoes standing on grass

Thanks to it’s variety of foriegn influences, English spelling can be really wierd. Its a language full of idiosyncracies. Their seem to be rules that are relevent and helpful but definately not failsafe. You must remain consciencious or you may end up embarassing yourself.

In the first paragraph alone, there are ten misspelt words – can you find them all? Of course, you may argue, quite rightly, that a spell checker would pick these up so there’s no need to worry. What’s more, you understood everything I wrote, so what’s the big deal?

Does correct spelling matter?

At the end of the day, does correct spelling even matter? In a word, yes. Particularly in professional contexts. Charles Duncombe, an online entrepreneur, found that a product’s sales doubled after one spelling mistake was corrected. And if you’re trying to get a job, spelling mistakes in your CV are likely to cost you an interview.

For better or worse, spelling mistakes will lead people to lose trust in you and will therefore cost you business.

Shortcomings of a spellchecker

While a spell checker will indeed find most mistakes, it won’t save you completely. For example, spell checkers:

  • may not be able to help with uncommon proper names
  • may mark words as errors that are in fact spelt correctly
  • often cannot help with heterographs

Hetero-whats, I hear you say. Heterographs are words that sound the same but are spelt differently and have different meanings, for example ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ (which I mixed up in the first paragraph).

Choosing the correct heterograph

English has three sets of heterographs that most commonly cause confusion. Here they are, along with tips on how to avoid mistakes:

‘Its’ and ‘it’s’

  • ‘Its’ is the possessive form of ‘it’ – ‘The dog chased its tail’. (In comparison, ‘The dog chased her tail’.)
  • ‘It’s’ is the contraction of ‘it’ and ‘is’ – ‘It’s cute’. (In comparison, ‘She’s cute’.)

Simple test: If ‘it is’ makes sense, it’s ‘it’s’. If not, it’s ‘its’.

‘Your’ and ‘you’re’.

  • ‘Your is the possessive form of ‘you’ – ‘Your hair is beautiful’. (In comparison, ‘Her hair is beautiful’.)
  • ‘You’re’ is the contraction of ‘you’ and ‘are’ – ‘You’re beautiful’. (In comparison, ‘She’s beautiful’.

Simple test: If ‘you are’ makes sense, it’s ‘you’re’. If not, it’s ‘your’.

‘Their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’.

  • ‘Their’ is the possessive form of ‘they’ – ‘Their house is enormous’. (In comparison, ‘Her house is enormous’.)
  • ‘They’re’ is the contraction of ‘they’ and ‘are’ – ‘They’re rich’. (In comparison, ‘She’s rich’.)
  • ‘There’ can be many things but it usually refers to place – ‘She lives there’.

Simple test: If ‘they are’ makes sense, it’s ‘they’re’. If there is possession, it’s ‘their’. Everything else is ‘there’.

There are many others, such as:

  • ‘allowed/aloud’
  • ‘weather/weather’
  • ‘sight/site/cite’
  • ‘insure/ensure’ (some define this pair as synophones as the pronunciation is actually slightly different)

Avoiding these can be tricky, as their spelling depends on the context. In many cases, your gut feeling is a good indicator – if a spelling seems a bit off, it’s always worth checking its definition.

Final tips on avoiding spelling mistakes

At the end of the day, there’s no quick fix to poor spelling, but following these steps will help:

  • Say the word aloud to hear the pronunciation.
  • Read and reread your writing.
  • Be cautious (if you’re not sure, look it up).
  • Be consistent (are you using American or British spelling?).
  • Try turning your spellchecker off until you’ve finished a text, then make a note of the words you’ve misspelt – this will help in the future (just remember to turn it on again…).
  • Show your writing to someone else (preferably someone who spells well!).
  • Read and write more.

If you feel like your spelling is holding your business back, get in touch with us today.

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