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The first major trick to being a better speller and avoiding spelling anxiety is to tell yourself you CAN spell. Most poor spellers have convinced themselves over years of reinforcement that the opposite is true. Falling into the pattern of bad spelling is all too common.

Once you've changed your mindset, there are a number of things you can do to improve your spelling. It really isn’t difficult. Even those who have said, “I’ve never been able to spell,” can improve. Here are some tips.

1. Look out for careless errors. Extra care in writing and proofreading can help eliminate even the simplest errors. Look at each word and make sure it "looks" right. Don't be complacent with poor spelling.

2. Use a dictionary. The only way to be sure of a word you are unsure of is to look it up. "But how can I look up a word if I don't know how it's spelled?" you may ask. Sound out the word the best you can and look for words that might be the word you're looking for. Under most circumstances, you'll find the word.

3. Be careful with Spellcheckers. These computer vehicles catch some errors, but for typos that are still correctly spelled words, just the wrong word, they skip right over them. And just because a Spellchecker says it’s wrong, it might not be.

4. Learn to spell a word by syllables. Many mistakes occur because a syllable is omitted or an extra syllable is accidentally added. (For example, TEMPERATURE is not temperture, TEMPERAMENT is not temperment, and ATHLETE is not athelete.)

5. Learn and use helpful spelling rules such as “I before E except after C except when sounded as A as in Neighbor and Weigh.” There are about a dozen rules, each with a few exceptions, of course. Learning them, however, saves a lot of spelling anxiety. Lists of these rules can be found on the Internet and in many dictionaries or grammar books. It's worth your time reviewing the rules you learned in elementary school.

6. Learn to distinguish between homonyms. Go beyond to, two, and too; its and it's; and there, they’re, and their. There are many of these homonyms that become the source of many spelling errors.

7. Learn commonly misspelled words. There are reasons words are commonly misspelled. Sometimes, it’s because of mispronunciation. Sometimes, it’s because the spelling breaks a rule or just doesn’t make sense.

The trick is to make a game out of spelling the words that give you problems. Think about the word. Think about the part that you can’t remember. And make a trick. These tricks are called mnemonic tricks. (Mnemonics: a technique of improving the memory. The M is silent!)

Here are a few spelling tricks to get you started:

SEPARATE: (Often misspelled as seperate.) Look at the word like, Sep A RAT e. There is “A RAT” in the middle of SEPARATE. If you didn’t write in “a rat,” it’s wrong.

GRAMMAR: (Often misspelled as grammer.) Think to yourself, "The only one who loves GRAMMAR is my GRAMMA!" (Kelsey Grammer spells it differently, but don’t let that fool you. It’s AR.)

ARITHMETIC: (Often misspelled as arithmatic.) There is ME in the middle of ARITHMETIC.

SECRETARY: (Often misspelled secratery or secretery.) Say a SECRETARY can really keep a SECRET.

MANHATTAN: (Often misspelled Manhatten.) A MAN with a HAT can't get a TAN!

MISSPELL: (Often spelled Mispell.) It would be such a MISS to MISSPELL MISSPELL.

EXCEPT: (Often misspelled exept.) If you say exept out loud, you can hear that it is misspelled. The same is true with EQUIPMENT (there is no t, equiptment)and EXERCISE (there is no c, excercise).

Sometimes, no matter what trick you make up, it comes down to memorization, as in the words LIEUTENANT, RHYTHM, RHYME, and PICNICKING.

Still stuck? Make yourself a personal spelling cheater's list with all the words that constantly mess you up: the ones you can't remember, whether it's "ei" or "ie" when you're writing it. Keeping this personal spelling cheater's list either in your wallet, on your desk, or by your computer is a very good idea.

The second trick, and probably more valuable than the first, is that even the best spellers have trouble with words. That's where dictionaries come in to play. For those who ask, "How can I look it up if I don't know how to spell it?" the answer is simple. Sound it out. Although phonetic dictionaries are available, if you sound out a word, the odds are you will find it in a dictionary. Spellcheckers on computers are also excellent resources. Don't turn them off. Even the best spellers make careless errors. However, don't always depend on them to catch everything or make choices for you. They are still machines.

But let's say you don't have a dictionary or spell check. Are there ways to figure out spelling without these? That's where old-fashioned spelling rules come in. You learned them in school. Maybe you forgot them. They work...most of the time...except when there's an exception.