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A site on college prep, a piece on spelling. Is the state of our education so dire?

Yes, I do believe grade school kids should master spelling rules, and high school, much less college students, should not misspell words on formal assignments. While that may be ideal, the reality is spelling errors crop up everywhere: in college-level essays, but also on signs in public places and notably, on the web (ever read comments on YouTube?).

Another reality is that many intelligent adults don’t find proper spelling to come easily; but rather than shrug and continue to spell badly, such people (if they are mature) recognize their weakness and live with a dictionary close at hand.

So, as the t-shirt saying goes, “Bad Spellers of the World, Untie!”, and behold the tips below to help conquer your spelling demons:

1)      Don’t over-rely on Spell Check. It’s a handy tool, but beware: it can’t think for you. It only recognizes whether a word is in the language; it doesn’t check for usage. Do a web search for “Spell Checker Poem” and you’ll find a humorous but powerful example of Spell Check’s serious limitations.

2)      Do print your document and read it aloud slowly before turning it in (or presenting or sending it). This is just as important in the professional world as it is in the student’s world, by the way. No one wants to make silly errors, and we catch errors more frequently on paper than we do on screen.

3)      Do use a dictionary when you aren’t sure how to spell a word. Let’s face it: foregoing the dictionary with a “close enough!” attitude is just plain lazy. Using online dictionaries may seem easy, but don’t let your old-fashioned paper one get dusty. Personally, I find the “old school” dictionaries much faster to use (plus, no annoying ads!).

4)      Do (re-)learn spelling rules if necessary. Check out a few good links to get started:
“Some Rules and Suggestions about Spelling”: a wonderful page with interactive quizzes at the bottom. From the Capital Community College Foundation’s Guide to Grammar and Writing.
“English Spelling Rules” from
“Spelling: Common Words that Sound Alike” from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).
What a page of resources: “ESL: Spelling” from The Internet TESL Journal.