Guide to Spelling: Hooked on Phonics

See and Say

Some words are misspelled because they are often mispronounced. Sometimes extra letters are added; other times, letters are omitted. How many of the following words do you mispronounce?

  1. Leaving out a consonant: February, recognize, surprise, government, library, eighth, Arctic, candidate, probably.
  2. Adding an unnecessary vowel: forty, pronunciation, schedule, chimney, disastrous, umbrella.
  3. Leaving out an unstressed syllable: accidentally, superintendent, incidentally.
  4. Leaving out an unstressed vowel: temperature, vegetable, original, miniature, interesting, diamond, chocolate.

At other times, you're not at fault at all: The words are spelled differently from the way they sound. With such unphonetic words, you're working without a net. There are no rules, only spelling techniques like memorization and visualization. Of course, there are always dictionaries.

These unphonetic words fall into three main categories: silent letters, tricky-dickie word endings, and y/i use. And here they are …

Silent Letters

Never seem to meet the people you want to see, but can't get rid of the same old pests? The same is true of spelling words. Keeping this truism in mind, here are some words with silent letters that have no doubt been annoying you for years. Only now, you know why.

  • Silent b: doubtable, subpoena, subtle, undoubtedly
  • Silent h: exhaust, exhibit, exhilaration, ghastly, ghost, heir, rheumatism, rhyme
  • Silent g: align, design, gnarled, diaphragm
  • Silent p: cupboard, pneumatic, pneumonia, psalm, pseudonym, psychology, receipt
  • Silent t: bankruptcy, listen, mortgage, wrestle
  • Silent c: acquaint, acquire, acquit, ascertain, miscellaneous, ascend, fascinate, indict, muscle
Quoth the Maven

Homonyms and homophones are especially tricky to spell and use correctly.

Tricky-Dickie Word Endings

The following words confound even the best spellers because they don't end the way we think they should:

  • Words that end in -ar: beggar, burglar, bursar, calendar, cellar, liar
  • Words that end in -cian: electrician, musician, pediatrician, politician
  • Words that end in -ain: Britain, captain, certain, mountain, porcelain

Y/I Use

Here are some words that sound like they contain an i. No such luck; each has a y creating the i sound.

  • abyss
  • analyze
  • cylinder
  • hypocrisy
  • paralysis
  • syllable
  • symmetry
  • symphony
  • synonym
book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

highlights

Bug Off! 6 Tick- and Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Which bug bites are dangerous? Learn about 6 diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes, the signs and symptoms, and treatment options if someone in your family gets infected.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, brought to you by Galactic Hot Dogs.

Top 10 Backyard Party Games for All Ages
Looking for some fun outdoor games for your Fourth of July party or barbecue? Check out these awesome group games, from sack races to cornhole, to make your backyard a kid-friendly party spot!

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks