Spelling Tip 4 Speaking vs Spelling

"If I improve the way I speak I'll be able to spell, right?" Wrong

Some people blame their accents and the way they say words for not being able to spell well. They think that if they speak 'properly' and pronounce words 'correctly' they'll be able to spell. But this is not true. The English spelling system doesn't work like that. We can have loads of different ways of saying the same word, which means we can't have a standard spelling for it.

To have a regular phonic 'sounding out' system, which worked, there would have to be only one way of spelling each sound. This is true in some languages but not in English.

There have always been lots of different English accents and dialects. How we say words still varies from region to region and country to country - London, east Midlands, Liverpool, Newcastle, Scotland, American, Australian, Indian, the Caribbean etc. So a simplified, standardized spelling system couldn't possibly reflect all these great varieties of English.

Another reason why spelling and pronunciation are different is that the way we say words has changed over the centuries while the spelling remained fixed. Sometimes the way something is spelt shows us the history of the word and the way people spoke it centuries ago - and that's why the spelling might seem a bit strange.

But often the spelling does reflect pronunciation and saying a word can give clues or even very clear indications of likely spelling patterns but it's unreliable unless you know the patterns and pronunciation
Light, flight, right, bright slight. But write, site, kite
eight, weight but height
match, batch watch

So sometimes we can relate sounds to patterns if we know all the possible variations, which good spellers do.

So my spelling tip number 4 is: don't fret over your accent and think it's at fault for your spelling. It is only through visual familiarity with language, and the visual sequences of letters that you can learn about the probable spelling of words.


Check out the spelling and pronunciation lesson on common words with silent letters in them that can trip you up click here to go to the lesson

For a more on accents, pronunciation and grammar, check out my Standard English vs Non-Standard English video Click here for more info

For a more information about the reasons why spelling is the way it is, click here