Contact the Grammar Anarchist with your questions about grammar and language at
Get a personal reply at

Friday, October 31, 2014

Have You Lost a Spelling Bee Lately?

So you have trouble spelling words correctly in U.S.-English! Don’t be surprised. The reason is simple. U.S.-English is comprised of every other language in the world. Yup! But you knew that. So why sweat it? F’rinstance: how do you spell that red sauce you spread on burgers? catsup, catchup, cetsup, ketsup, ketchup, katchup? Or the holy Muslim scripture? Quran, Koran, Curan, Coran, Quran, Quoran, Qu’ran? Answer below.

Here are four ways to simplify the problem: (NOTE: I didn’t say “solve”!)
  1. Dig out the roots. Find parts of a word that are like other words with similar meanings. You’ll never misspell “medicinal” again, as long as you remember how to spell “medicine”. Or “decadent” if you remember how to spell “decade”.
  2. The Prefix-Suffix Method. This system removes the plight of double letters. If the prefix ends in the same letter that the root word begins, add them together (1+1) and get double letters (un-necessary, ac-commodate, im-mediate, mis-spell). Doubling in not needed if those connecting letters are different (disappear, renovation, ineligible, recommend). The same formula works with the suffix (common-ness, logical-ly, final-ly, grand-ness, grand-ly, like-ly).
  3. Pronounce words correctly. But BEWARE the Homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently). These include there/they're/their and pair/pare/pear and fair/fare and bear/bare. In some parts of the country, another evil lurks. These words may sound alike: tar/tear/tire or fare/fear/for/fair/far. We had a President who pronounced “government” in two syllables, as “gub-ment”; and another who insisted on saying “nuc-u-lar” instead of “nu-clear”. And scores of people sell their homes through “real-a-tors” rather than “real-tors”.
  4. Lose a spelling bee! (You’ll never forget your last word.) Or paste this quote from Thomas Edison: “It’s a damn poor mind that can spell a word only one way.” Because many words are translated from other languages, spelling becomes curious. Do you spell dialog, monolog, catalog with the added “ue” (dialogue, monologue, catalogue) or not? Here’s the antidote: make a list your problem words, look them up in a current dictionary, and record the preferred spelling (yes, many of those words have alternate spellings).
ANSWER to questions in first paragraph: the choice is yours. Just be consistent in using it.

NOTE TO WRITERS who depend on spell-check systems: DON’T!

No comments: