Spelling Tip 6 - using the spelling strategy syllable breakdown.

Syllable breakdown is a strategy to help you spell long words. It's great because it helps you identify bits of the word that cause problems or helps you remember those pesky silent letters.

Breaking a word down into syllables means:
- you break a word down into little spoken chunks and
- each chunk is called a syllable
- each chunk usually has a vowel or vowel sound in it.

1 syllable trick
2 syllables paper - pa/per
3 syllables computer - com/pu/ter
4 syllables application - ap/plic/a/ tion
5 syllables examination - ex/am/in/a/tion

Syllable breakdown also helps you identify prefixes and suffixes - remember those?
prefix - small words added at the beginning of a root word
suffix - small words added to the end of words

dissatisfied = dis /sat / is / fied
uncomfortable = un/com/fort/able
irregularly = ir/ reg/u/lar/ly or ir/re/gu/lar/ly

*It's up to you how you break a word down - as long has it helps you. There's no right or wrong way.

But some people find it hard to identify syllables or hear them - that's fine. So use other methods that rely on seeing the separate bits of the word. See the small words within words, the root word, prefix, suffix... I spoke about words within words in spelling tip 5 - using memory tricks

You're probably thinking that you don't know how to spell the little syllable words!

I'll admit that syllable breakdown is great for good spellers because they know letter patterns and their sounds. They have an excellent visual memory for what looks right. They know the 'qua' in qualification is spelt with an 'a' not 'o' just like the other 'qua' words: quarter, quart, quantity, quaint, quality. They know the suffix endings that sounds like "shun" is either tion/sion/cian.

You can develop this skill too by practicing spelling, noticing the patterns and rules.

Spelling won't happen by just reading about it - you have to work at it

A good tip for dyslexics is to identify vowels in words. (Thanks to www.beatingdyslexia.com)
separate - sep /a / rate Can you see the vowels and also the word within a word? ( a rat - "separate a rat" ) sep a rat e
qualification - qua li fi ca tion a li fi a
museum - mu se um see the u vowels either side of the e

Using syllable breakdown is a strategy to help you, especially with long words and it's up to you how you break the word down - as long has it helps you. There's no right or wrong way. Exaggerate the sound use it in combination with memory tricks. Use anything to help you remember the spelling of words that are important in your life

More syllables & spelling test

assistant = ass / is / tant (3 syllables)

organisation = or/ gan /i / sa/ tion (5 syllables)

Let's look at suffixes (the endings of words). When you break a word down it helps to know the common endings.

–tion,  –ment,  -ly,  -ture,  -ing

- ture    ad/ven/ture    fu/ture    tem/pe/ra /ture

-ly     faith/ful/ly  grate/ful/ly

-ment   com  part  ment     a/part/ment

-tion    de te ri or  a  tion    dec/or/a/tion      mul/ti/pli/ca/tion

-sion    ex/ten/sion   ap/pre/hen/sion

examination - ex/ am / in / a / tion

comprehensive - com/ pre / hen/ sive

Anne Betteridge in her book "Adult Learner's Guide to Spelling" says, If breaking words into syllables doesn't make sense to you then don't worry. Some people find it hard. A word can be broken up in several ways:

- small words - h ear ing
- suffix endings - hearing
- letter patterns - hear, near, dear, fear
- say it oddly - "he" "a" "ring"
- memory trick - you hear with your ear - hearing

Let’s do a spelling test. There are nine sentences.
Click here to do the spelling test

Listen and write what you hear. Remember to use memory tricks, your knowledge of letter patterns, spelling rules, prefixes and suffixes or break the long words into syllables to help with the spelling.


1. My doctor gave me a comprehensive examination.

2. My apartment needs decorating.

3. I want to be a retail assistant in the future.

4. The temperature is hot for September.

5. Please phone him immediately.

6. On Wednesday, I have an interview for a job.

7. The expansion of Heathrow is inevitable.

8. I'm very grateful for your excellent advice.

9. What experience and qualifications do you have?

10. I'm very dissatisfied with the way things are going in the company.

Interested in learning how to remember difficult words? Want to learn more Spelling Strategies? Then click here and you'll never be stuck for that spelling you need to remember and always forget!

For more info on suffixes click here
For more info on letter patterns click here

Knowing the letter patterns & their sounds is vital - check out my Spelling Rules, Patterns & Strategies Masterclass