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WriteCast Episode 55: Struggling With Spelling

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WriteCast Episode 55: Struggling With Spelling

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© Walden University Writing Center 2018


[Introduction music]


CLAIRE: Welcome to Write Cast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, a monthly podcast by the Walden University Writing Center. I’m Claire Helakoski,


KACY: and I’m Kacy Walz. 

In today’s episode we’re talking about spelling. 


CLAIRE: Generally we don’t review for spelling in our paper reviews because it’s something that writers can more easily work on, on their own, instead of the bigger picture issues that we tend to focus on in our paper reviews. Like, organization, argument, use of evidence, those things are much more beneficial from a second set of eyes, whereas software and other tools, even your own eyes, can be more helpful in finding little spelling errors. Whether those are from usage of different contexts or dialects or just typos in your writing. And we’ve been seeing an increase lately in requests for help with spelling, so we wanted to give a few pointers today.


KACY: For some context, when you’re writing at Walden or any other U.S. university or college, you’re generally expected to follow what’s called Standard American English Spelling. That doesn’t mean that other spellings are wrong. Some examples come from British English where things like the -er or -re might be switched around, there’s a -ize or -ise, for example, we might spell utilize u-t-i-l-i-z-e whereas in British English it is spelled u-t-I-i-s-e. Personally I struggle a lot with spelling. So in today’s episode we’re going to give three tips to help all writers perform this task more efficiently.


CLAIRE: So, tip number one is to read a lot, especially in your discipline. Because seeing words over and over will help you internalize them over time. I know that in my work as a Writing Instructor, there are definitely some words that are specific to different disciplines that I didn’t recognize when I was first seeing them in student papers. So, I would type them into the dictionary and look them up and make sure they were spelled correctly, and see what they meant, to learn a little bit more about them. So, reading a lot can really help internalize that spelling, whether English is your second language or an additional language that you know, or whether you’re just getting used to the terminology in your discipline, or if spelling’s just always been a little bit of a challenge for you. Reading a lot will help kind of cement how those different words look.


KACY: Another tip is to use spell-check. We often warn students against relying too heavily on spell-check, as there are some errors that spell-check won’t be able to correct, but it’s still a very useful tool. You want to make sure that you’ve set your computer setting to Standard American English Spelling. You do this by right-clicking on Set Proofing Language, and then choose English with (US) in parentheses. You can also set it up to run automatically. You might not want to do this as sometimes the spell-check might pick up on words that, like Claire was mentioning, are very discipline-specific, so are not currently in Word’s own system. It can also be a little bit distracting as you’re writing to have those automatic changes or that highlighting, but this is one tool that certain writers do like to have going as they are actually writing out their papers. Whether or not you decide to turn your automatic proofing on, you can just get into the practice of using spell-check every time you close the document. 


CLAIRE: Yeah, that’s a great tool. And I definitely recommend Word’s spell-check for all students, even if you just have the occasional typo. I know I always keep it on when I’m writing. And Walden students in particular have access to an additional grammar and spell-checking service called Grammarly. Some of you might know about this already and you can read about it on our webpages, but you have access to this software and it’s just an additional checker. And it’s most beneficial to run it through after you’re done writing. So, if you find Word’s little red underlines to be distracting as your working, Grammarly might be a good option for you as well.

All right. So, some of you may be wondering how to know which spelling to use. So, I wanted to go over what APA says about spelling and how to adhere to the spelling standards that APA would like writers to use. APA says that academic writers should use the American English Spelling Standards in the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. If you can’t find a word in that dictionary, then Webster’s Third New International Dictionary is another option. And for those specific terms to your discipline, APA has a dictionary of psychology that you can check out as well. And when the dictionary provides several different ways to spell a word, you should use the first spelling to adhere to that APA guideline.


KACY: Another tip we have for you is to develop some self-awareness about common misspellings. On my own part, I often struggle with words that have multiple double letters in them, for example success or beginning always seem to trip me up because I’m not quite sure where those double letters should be. So, you can become aware of your own issues with spelling and then practice writing them over and over again by hand. This can really help you solidify that spelling into your memory. You can add them to your MS Word’s dictionary so that they automatically change. You can do this by right-clicking on Add to Dictionary. You might not be able to do this with all Word versions, but if you have an updated version, this can be a great help and benefit if you already know the words that commonly trip you up.


CLAIRE: I definitely second the hand-writing words that are tricky…I studied French in college so that was my second language, and writing the words out over and over really helped me remember how to spell and understand the general phonetics and layout of words in this other language. So, especially if your first language isn’t English, rewriting on your own can really help be a positive exercise.


KACY: And I think the act of hand-writing is especially helpful as more information comes out between the connection between hand writing words and really making that stick in your memory. 


CLAIRE: Yeah, I love those studies because I’m a hand-writer myself and I like to hand-write notes of things to remember and I’m glad that that is having some scientific basis as well because it helps support my own habits I guess.

As a last bonus tip, don’t get discouraged if you get feedback about spelling or think that you’re a bad speller. Because there are tools to help you and it is just going to get better over time and with practice. Especially with those tools to kind of underline and help make you aware of those different common spelling things that are happening that may not adhere to APA guidelines. Be aware of those words, keep a list, and then over time they’ll start to become more and more familiar and occur less and less. Just like any other type of revision.


KACY: You might be interested in checking out one of our blog posts called “Making Word Work for You”where one of our Writing Center leaders, Beth Nastachowski, talks about how to navigate and understand the different markings you might see with Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checking.


CLAIRE: That’s a really useful one. We also are going to link in our show notes to a couple other resources that we think might be helpful to you. Such as the dictionaries that I mentioned, so we’ll be linking to those. We’ll also link to our webpages on proofreading, since those can be really helpful for spelling as well as other minor proofreading things, you can work on, on your own. Also, for Walden students, the Academic Skills Center has tutoring for Microsoft Word, so they can help you change some settings in your Word if you would like to do so and need a little extra assistance. 


KACY: I mentioned before that spelling can be really challenging for me in particular, I do have one kind of funny story I think…I teach in-person as well as teaching webinars here at Walden, and I am terrible about writing on the blackboard. And I feel like the only time I really notice that I have misspelled a word is when I start hearing laughter from behind me as my students notice that I’ve misspelled some very simple words like “today” or “assignment” or something that I probably should have down pretty pat, but something about writing it in front of people and trying to teach at the same time makes that a real struggle. So we definitely understand when you’re sharing your work, sometimes you can be a little self-conscious about that, but please don’t be. We’ve all been there. Maybe some of us more than others, but we’re happy to help and we want to be helpful. 


CLAIRE: That’s a great reminder, Kacy, and we all have words that we frequently misspell or need to check in on ourselves about, so it’s just a natural part of writing.


KACY: Thank you so much for joining us today, listeners. And until next time, keep writing!


CLAIRE: Keep inspiring!




KACY: WriteCast is a monthly podcast produced by the Walden University Writing Center. Visit our online Writing Center at Find more WriteCast episodes on iTunes,Stitcher,TuneInor your favorite podcast app. We would love to hear from you. Connect with us on our blogFacebook, and Twitter, and at Thanks for listening!