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Dictionary Spelling Tips

open dictionary page

A good dictionary spelling strategy is important to have when you need help in spelling a difficult word.

But you may have asked yourself, “How can I find the word in the dictionary if I don’t know how to spell it?!!”

That's a great question! Here are a few tips.

Dictionary Spelling Tips

1) Be sure you know how to pronounce the word correctly. You can probably get a few good clues from saying the word properly to yourself.

student's hand, writing on his paper

2) Write down the way that you think the word is spelled. You might have it right or at least be very close.

3) Try to find the word in the dictionary, just the way you’ve written it.  If you find it there—fantastic! You’re all done—or almost done. Skip ahead to #6.

4) If you don’t find it, think of different spellings for some of the sounds.  For example, the schwa sound is sometimes spelled with an a in about, an e in kitten, an i in cousin, o in oven, or u as in succeed. There are also several vowel combinations that make the schwa sound. So if you’re looking for seperate and can’t find it in the dictionary, try separate. Bingo!

Of course, consonant sounds also have alternate spellings. For example, the s sound can be spelled with s, sc, or c.

computer keyboard with a key marked "Spelling"

5) Use a spell checker

If your word processing program, such as Open Office or MS Word, has a spell check, open a new document. Type in the word you’re questioning. If your spell checker underlines it, right click on the word to see alternate suggestions. Sometimes the suggestions are wacky, but sometimes you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. 

6) Double-check the meaning of the word in question. 

There are some very tricky homonyms. For example, you might not be sure how to spell the word for a matched set of writing paper and envelopes. You determine that one correct spelling is stationary, and you may think you’re done. Not so fast. That spelling, with an a, means fixed in a station; immobile. The correct spelling for paper and envelopes is stationery.

Another Dictionary Spelling Tip

stack of books

There are spelling dictionaries tailored specifically to this dilemma. For example, Webster's New World Pocket Misspeller's Dictionary lists the most common misspellings of more than 15,000 frequently used words, and gives the correct spellings in easy-to-read boldface type. Brief definitions are also included to help you know for sure that you have the correct word.

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Other Ways to Improve Spelling Skills

Take at look at some of the free resources here at Spelling-Words-Well:

because misspelled - crossed out

102 frequently misspelled words:  Study this list to boost your spelling abilities. Everybody has a few spelling glitches!

Troublesome Homonyms Explained, Part 1:  Improve spelling skills by choosing the correct homonym. Definitions and examples included for homonyms beginning with A - P.  Free pdf.  

Troublesome homonyms Explained, Part 2:  Here's more spelling help with homonyms. If your/you’re ever to/too confused to use the correct homonym, print out this free, handy reference tool! Homonyms beginning with P - Y.

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