January 18, 2019

M. J. Maddox, PhD
is the American English Doctor.


Don’t Misspell Words That Spell-Check Apps Will Catch

Section heading from the Washington Post (9 December 2018). Spelling tip: There’s a rat in separate: sep-A-RATe.

No one is too surprised that misspelled words are common in social media.

Comments are dashed off in a hurry. Many of the errors on Facebook and other sites are merely typos that the writer doesn’t notice until it’s too late to correct them. Then too, not everyone who posts has strong basic English skills.

Usage errors in the writing of nonprofessional writers do not represent the collapse of education.

Misspelled words in a reputable publication, on the other hand, are cause for concern.

Anyone who uses language in a professional capacity should have mastered the spelling conventions of Standard English. That includes artists, proofreaders, and headline writers, as well as reporters and editorial writers.

Because English is blessed with numerous homophones, relying on spell-check apps is not enough.

The only way to avoid misspelling words such as affect, effect, advise, advice, past, passed and the like is to learn what they mean and how they function in a sentence.

Some frequently misspelled words, however, will be flagged by any spell checker because they have no corresponding homonyms.

For example, there’s only one way to spell the following words: sincerely, athlete, business, definite, forty, misspell, weird, separate, tragedy, and truly. And yet they appear in every list of “frequently misspelled words.”

English spelling is more challenging than that of some other modern languages, but it is not beyond the ability of most English-speakers to learn to spell the words they use on a daily basis.

The teaching of English in many schools does not prioritize correct spelling. In fact, many K-3 teachers promote something called “inventive/invented spelling” that actually contributes to the fact that so many children fail to learn to spell the words they use.

Parents of elementary children can help their children master the basics of English spelling by working with them at home.

This slim spelling guide will help: 7 Steps to Good Spelling.

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Warren Buffet on Language Skills

Warren Buffett

An apt post to follow the one on the difference between hone and home is this one about the views of billionaire Warren Buffet expressed in a LinkedIn video posted by entrepreneur Michael Hood.

In the video, Buffet—who knows how to use the word hone—advises young people to “focus on learning how […]