Everyone who has difficulty with spelling words correctly can derive some comfort from knowing that some very good writers have been notoriously bad spellers. It’s also comforting to bad spellers to know that this business of spelling seems to have little to do with intelligence. It has more to do with how we remember things. Some people, once they've seen a word spelled correctly, will never misspell that word again, those are the people who, if you ask them how they spell a word, they will first say, “wait a second. Let me write down.” If you are not a strong visual learner, but learn in other ways, you will have to learn some other tricks to become a strong speller.
The following suggestions about spelling are only that- suggestions. Spelling, like vocabulary building, is ultimately a personal matter, and only a planned and sustained effort to improve spelling will have the desired results.
Homonyms and Plurals
Homonyms are words that sound alike or nearly alike but different meanings and different spellings: affect-effect, they’re-their-there, the list goes on and on. Our section on common confusables contains words that people find confusing.
Creating plurals in English is usually quite simple; just add s to the end of the word. Sometimes, however, it isn't that easy and the rules can be a bit perplexing. We have also dealt with the formation and spelling of plurals that should prove helpful.
British and American spellings
Writers who grow up in England, India, Canada, the Barbados, or any place where spelling habits conform to British preferences will be perplexed with American usage of English words. It will be appropriate for us to follow the British.
The plural form of most nouns is created simply by adding the letter s.
•more than one snake=snakes
•more than one ski=skis
Word that end in –ch, x, s or s-like sounds, however, will require an –es for the plural:
•more than one witch=witches
•more than one box=boxes
•more than one gas=gases
•more than one bus=buses
•more than one kiss=kisses
•more than one Jones=Joneses
There are several nouns that have irregular plural forms. Plurals formed in this way are sometimes called mutated (or mutating) plurals.
•more than one child=children
•more than one woman=women
•more than one man=men
•more than one person=people
•more than one goose=geese
•more than one mouse=mice
•more than one barracks=barracks
•more than one deer=deer
And, finally, there are nouns that maintain their Latin or Greek form in the plural. (see media data and alumni, before.)
•more than one nucleus=nuclei
•more than one syllabus=syllabi
•more than one focus=foci
•more than one fungus=fungi
•more than one cactus=cacti(cactuses is acceptable)
•more than thesis=theses
•more than one crisis=crises
•more than one phenomenon=phenomena
•more than one index=indices(indexes is acceptable)
•more than one appendix=appendices(appendixes is acceptable)
•more than one criterion=criteria
A handful of nouns appear to be plural in form but take a singular verb:
•The news is bad.
•Gymnastics is fun to watch.
•Economics/mathematics/statistics is said to be difficult. (“Economics” can be sometimes be a plural concept, as in “The economics of the situation demands that…..”)
Numerical expressions are usually singular, but can be plural if the individuals within a numerical group are acting individually:
•Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money.
•One-half of the faculty is retiring this summer.
•One half of the faculties have doctorates.
•Fifty percent of the students have voted already.
And another handful of nouns might seem to be singular in nature but take a plural form and always use a plural verb:
•My pants are torn. (Nowadays you will sometimes see this word as a singular “pant” [meaning one pair of pants] especially in clothing ads, but most writers would regard that as an affectation.)
•Her scissors were stolen.
•The glasses have slipped down his nose again.
With words that end in a consonant and a y, you’ll need to change the y to an i and add es.
•more than one baby=babies
•more than one gallery= galleries
(Notice the difference between this and galleys, where the final y is not preceded by a consonant.)
•more than one reality=realities
This rule does not apply to proper nouns:
•more than one day=days
Words that end in o create special problems.
•more than one potato=potatoes
•more than one hero=heroes
•more than one memo=memos
•more than one cello=cellos
……and for words where another vowel comes before the o……
•more than one stereo=stereos
Plurals of words that end in –f or – fe usually change the f sound to a v sound and add -s or –es.