Spelling With Your Eyes

Thee prablum menee peepul hav speling wurdz iz inn ther sownd.

For example, did you have a problem reading that sentence? You might have hesitated at first, but when your eyes took in the letters and your mind turned those letter combinations into sounds, the fact that none of the words in that sentence are spelled correctly didn’t matter. Your eyes identified the sounds and you were able to interpret the meaning of the words. This connection between eyes and ears, letters and sounds, is what creates – and solves – many spelling problems from childhood on.

Kids often are very creative in their spelling, but in general if they’re just starting out learning writing, their spelling will be like our example sentence above, using letters that make the right sounds, even if they don’t make the right spelling. On the other hand, when children move to the next step, that’s when problems begin: when they’re learning how to “spell words correctly” (because really, a word’s spelling is simply the way that particular English word ended up after hundreds of years of evolution). That’s when kids will transpose I and E, or put a “silent” letter in the wrong place, or forget that the letter C can be used for the K sound.

There’s a term called “eye dialect” that has long been used in writing to show that while someone’s pronouncing words correctly, they probably don’t know how to spell them. It’s essentially what kids do when they’re learning how to write, spelling words the way they sound and using the letters that make the most sense to represent those sounds. Getting back to the C and K question, doesn’t it make sense that many children start out by spelling cat as kat?

Because poorly-spelled words can create a bad impression, it’s important to learn to use your eyes to help you identify the right letter patterns and the correct spellings. To get the best chances in school and at work, focus your eyes and your mind on learning the right way to spell words.