No-one is Born with Spelling Ability

No-one is Born with Spelling Ability

No one is born knowing the correct spelling of words 

I have lost count of the number of times someone has told me they are ‘not good at spelling’. People believe you are born to be good at the correct spelling of words or you are not.

Many believe that spell-checkers online is the answer to correcting poor spelling. They are helpful but not always reliable due to the peculiarities of English spelling.

Is spelling ability one of the pre-requisites for teaching? No! Many gifted teachers struggle with poor spelling.

I am not a member of the spelling police. Poor spelling can always be corrected. I believe there are ways to teach essential spelling skills to children as they move through primary school.  

What is Spelling?

It is:

The process of writing or naming the letters that spell the individual sounds in a word.

English spelling can be challenging. Many sounds in words have multiple spellings.

 The spelling of most other languages is regular.

For example, the sound /er/ is spelled er in her. 

The different spelling for /er/ 

  • ir  in shirt
  • ur in nurse
  • ear in earth
  • or in worm

In days passed, primary students worked through spelling lists to develop their spelling skills. I remember a teacher telling me he improved his spelling skills by writing out spelling lists several times. He would have some success, but knowing specific skills would have helped as well.

Many English words sound the same. Context determines the spelling.

An example of words that sound the same but have different meanings.

  • way - a method of doing something  
  • weigh – to measure how heavy something is
  • whey – a liquid formed when making cheese


The ability to spell words correctly depends on mastering the following.

  • The spelling of vowel and consonant sounds
  • The spelling rules of English. There are some (even when there are exceptions to the rule).
  • The role of the letter ‘q’
  • Use of ‘-s’ or ‘-es’ when writing the plural form of a word
  • The rule of using letter ‘x’
  • What to do with words ending in ‘-y’ when writing them in the plural form
  • Disappearing letters - proceed - procedure
  • When to use ‘-able’ and ‘-ible.’

The following must also be understood

  • The role of ‘e’ in lengthening a vowel sound (hat-hate)
  • The role of double consonants ( doll - embarrass)   
  • Silent letters (comb - science).
  • Homophones. Same sound different meaning (pain/pane)
  • Same vowel different spelling ( pay – gain)
  • The neutral vowel (schwa) – spelled doctor - said doctuh
  • The disappearing syllable: as in Wednesday
  • Words borrowed from other languages. 
  • Words spelled in different ways (colour - color)
  • Prefixes (unhappy) and Suffixes (happiness).
  • Apostrophes ( it’s – its)

English is a world language due to several reasons. One is the influence of the British Empire and colonization.

English has been influenced by:

  • Latin
  • Greek
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Russian
  • Japanese

There is sense to English spelling. 

The ability to spell words correctly begins in the early years of schooling when a child learns how the English Alphabetic system works.

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Do you struggle with spelling?