This week's word is onomatopoeia—a word I've known, recognized, and been able to use in a sentence since high school. Yet I still had to look it up in my computer's dashboard dictionary before I wrote Monday's blog post.
Why? I can't spell onomatopoeia: There are too many vowels that make too many different sounds, not to mention I frequently want to put a T in place of the N at the beginning (probably because I pronounce the word so quickly that I don't enunciate, thereby confusing even myself with what I'm really saying).
It's pretty easy to spell onomatopoeia—that is, to spell onomatopoeic words, like crunch, munch, whomp, and buzz. But what happens when you want to spell something harder? How do you look up a word if you don't know how to spell it—especially if, when you sound it out to try and spell it, you're sounding it out incorrectly? What then?
My dashboard dictionary was little help. I suspect my regular print dictionary would have yielded the same mystifying results. Luckily, many online dictionaries will auto-generate words with similar spellings to the one you're trying. I used my favorite standby, Merriam-Webster.com, and was kindly asked, "Did you mean ...?" to help me find the right word with the right spelling.
According to author and college instructor Dustin Wax, "a study of Fortune 500 human resource employees were published, saying that of the people they had interviewed, some 85% threw away a resume or cover letter that had as little as one or two spelling errors. The logic was, if you didn’t care enough about your application to make sure everything was spelled correctly, then you couldn’t be trusted to care enough about your job—where a tiny spelling error might undo an important business deal or cost the company money." Spelling counts!
To read Wax's helpful article—with links to other spelling resources—click here. And remember these pointers:
1. Making a list of words that commonly trip you up is helpful. Once you've identified these tricky terms, practice reading and writing them as often as possible—with the correct spelling!
2. One of the best helpers for finding proper (and improper) word spellings is the spell-checker tool in word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word. Work with this feature turned on regularly, and pay attention to which phrases, proper names, and other words are repeat offenders in your writing. (This will help you, too, with Pointer #1.)
3. If you're seriously committed to improving your spelling, you might want to work with a pro: Just as you can hire the services of a professional speech or writing coach, you can also work with a spelling coach. Many competitors in the National Spelling Bee contest have done so—with amazing results.
© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009