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6 incredibly useful spelling rules from childhood

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In English, there are words that sound the same but are spelled differently (such as “their,” “they’re,” and “there”); words with letters that have nothing to do with how the word is pronounced (“brought,” “although”); words that contain silent letters (“gnat,” “pneumonia”); and words that simply don’t follow any spelling rules.

Let’s revisit those spelling rules we learned long ago and the words that break those rules.

1. “I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh”

Words that break this rule:

  • ancient
  • species
  • science
  • sufficient
  • society
  • either
  • foreign
  • leisure
  • protein

2. “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking?” (Meaning when there are two vowels in a row, the first usually has a long sound and the second is silent.)

Words that break this rule:

  • said
  • through
  • leather
  • early
  • piece
  • build
  • guide
  • shoes
  • does
  • guest
  • break

3. Final silent E makes the vowel say its name (such as “rat,” “rate,” “hid,” “hide”)

Words that break this rule:

  • have
  • done
  • lose
  • where

4. Plural nouns—add an “s” or an “es”

Words that break this rule:

  • goose/geese
  • man/men
  • mouse/mice
  • tooth/teeth
  • alumnus/alumni
  • series
  • deer
  • sheep
  • species

5. If a word ends with an “ick” sound, spell it “ick” if it has one syllable (“trick”) and “ic” if it has two or more syllables (“sarcastic”)

Words that break this rule:

  • candlestick
  • seasick
  • nitpick

6. “A” versus “an”—if the first letter is a vowel use “an”; if the first letter is a consonant, use “a.”

Words that break this rule:

  • an honest
  • an honorable
  • a unicorn
  • a united front
  • a urologist
  • a onetime

Readers, any other rule-breaking words to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. Read more of her work at Impertinent Remarks.

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10 Places to Ignore Your Grammar and Spelling Checker

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

Because grammar and spelling checkers are software programs, they can’t read your mind or know your intentions. They also frequently cannot distinguish between correct and incorrect sentence structures and the use of words that sometimes confuse us humans. Below are 10 places in which your software may be suggesting errors rather than correcting them.

 
1. When you use your reader’s name in a sentence. Grammar and spelling checkers may not recognize whether you are talking to or about the person. These sentences are correct, but my grammar and spelling checker flagged them anyway.
Eric, thanks for writing this article. [The comma after Eric’s name is correct because we are addressing him directly.]
Dave, in the employee version, add an example here. [My checker suggested changing add to adds–wrong!]
Lynn, may we have permission to print your material? [It suggested that I capitalize may as a month, which is incorrect, of course!]
2. When you begin a sentence with an introductory clause. Your grammar and spelling checker does not recognize where you intend the clause to end. In the first indented sentence below, for example, it may suggest a comma after write, Mark, or program. Just remember to use a comma before the main part of the sentence, as the sentences below do. They are punctuated correctly, although my grammar and spelling checker suggested additional commas.
When you write to Mark about the program in Kansas City, be sure he understands that it is in Missouri.
         If they do give you a copy of the receipt, keep it for your records.

If you want to help employees improve their writing, use this guide.

3. When your software suggests changing a verb from singular to plural or vice versa (by adding s, removing s, or changing from is to are, for example). Your grammar and spelling checker may frequently suggest new errors in subject-verb agreement. The three sentences below are correct, but my grammar and spelling checker suggested changing them.
Any files beginning with 000 need to be moved to the C drive. [Need is correct–not needs.]
Thank you for letting us know about your shopping experience. [Know is correct–not knows!]

The average number of words per sentence is 15 to 20. [The verb is is correct; are would be wrong.]

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