Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

    By Julie Vorholt 

Have you seen posts online about “Examples of Ridiculous Spelling” in English? They consist of words that do not follow the standard rules about correct spelling. It can make you laugh or cry, depending on your mood. 

Although students recognize the importance of spelling, they are often not sure of specific steps to improve their skills. Below are some techniques to try when you’re studying. 

Technique #1: WRITE AND SPEAK

Copy each word five times or more. Do it every day. When you practice, say every word and every letter out loud. For example, say, “The word is habitat. H A B I T A T. Habitat.” This is beneficial because it makes the connection between what you see (which helps visual/sight learners), what you hear (which helps auditory/listening learners), and the shapes of the letters that you make with your pencil (which helps kinesthetic/movement learners). For that reason, it is best to complete this activity in handwriting, not typing, and work at a slower pace than usual. Speed is not the goal; focusing on each letter is the goal. 

Technique #2: LISTEN AND FOCUS

Use your listening skills to help with spelling. Pay attention to the sounds of words and use that information as a guide. For example, when saying “extinction,” you hear “ex” and “tion.” Focus on the letters in the middle of the word. This enables you to concentrate on the challenging letters or syllable(s) of the word, making any memorization and/or practice more efficient. 

Technique #3: USE AN APP

Use Quizlet, or another app of your choice, to practice. I like Quizlet because it is free and has a variety of activities. For example, in the “Spell” feature, just listen to the word and type it. You can create your own list of words or you can search for sets of vocabulary words that someone else has already made. As a timesaver, you may be able to copy their set. In particular, it is worth searching for sets that match your textbooks. 

Technique #4: ADD A LETTER

This technique, uses repetition to improve spelling. Begin by determining which letters are difficult to use correctly. For example, let’s consider the word “indigenous.” Most students find the latter part of the word to be challenging. On an index card or paper, write the word with 1 blank line to indicate each letter that has been removed. Then gradually add letters to provide practice. The following example can be written on 6 different index cards, so each letter can be added one at a time. 

I N D I G  ___ ___ ___ ___

I N D I G E ___ ___ ___ ___

I N D I G E N ___ ___ ___

I N D I G E N O ___ ___

I N D I G E N O U ___


A variation of this activity is “reverse chaining by letter or syllable.”

Have you developed strategies for improving your English spelling skills? Share your ideas in the comments!