Content creation is not just about inspired wordsmithing; it’s also about getting the mechanics right. By mechanics, I mean spelling and how to deal with often-baffling rules and exceptions.
This post, like last week’s, owes everything to Kristen Long, an associate editor at Ragan.com, and her sources. I strongly suggest you read her entire post “8 struggles every communicator understands” because it’s rich with info and links to great information.
So, here you are with a word in front of you that just doesn’t look right. What do you do? (I confess that an increasing number of words don’t “look right” to me these days, even though I was a champ speller as a mere girl.)
Well, the first thing you can do is to check out an article by Laura Hale Brockway entitled “29 words that look misspelled.” Her comment: “I was recently reading an article with the word pancreas in it. And I just knew pancreas was spelled wrong, but it wasn’t. Pancreas is spelled pancreas.”
Other examples from her article include changeable, heinous, inoculate, restaurateur—I always want to stick an “n” in there—and usability. Now these may not be words that you use very often, but you may want to print her list and station it by your monitor. Perhaps the more practical suggestion, though, is to create your own list of words that don’t look right, adding to it as you make new discoveries. You’ll find dictionary.com very helpful in this effort.
You may also find it useful to bolster your spelling efforts with Ms. Brockway’s “6 incredibly useful spelling rules from childhood.” Professional content creator that I am, I was quite embarrassed to realize that only one of them looked familiar—and that was “I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh.” Ms. Brockway lists five other rules that I am committing to memory, and she also provides exceptions to them. Again, her list and exceptions may be something you want to post by your monitor or put in an electronic folder where you can get to it fast.
The other five rules:
- “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.)
- Final silent E makes the vowel say its name (such as “rat,” “rate,” “hid,” “hide”)
- Plural nouns—add an “s” or an “es”
- 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”)
- “A” versus “an”—if the first letter is a vowel use “an”; if the first letter is a consonant, use “a.”
The days that I trounced Dudley Staples in a sixth grade spelling bee by correctly spelling chrysanthemum are long behind me. I’m grateful to both Ms. Long and Ms. Brockway for their spelling tips as well as for their acknowledgment—no e after g—that many of us struggle to get a grip on words that just don’t look right and can use all the help we can get.