Dictionary.com Word FAQs

How can I find the spelling of a word if I do not know it?

To find the spelling of a word you do not know, start with what you do know - like the first, second, third letters. You know alphabetical order, so that is a big tool for finding words. Say you want to learn how to spell separate. You know it begins with an s and it is followed by a vowel. You start in the dictionary at the letter s and choose the vowel you think is most likely, like e - so you are looking under se. You sound out the word and figure out that the next likely letter is p - so you are now looking under sep. When you get to the first letter you are unsure of - like the fourth letter in separate - then you check the different possibilities. You will find separate pretty quickly as you read down the list of words in the dictionary. If not, try to think of a similar-sounding word that you know is spelled oddly. Perhaps you are trying to find knight and it sounds like knife, which you do know how to spell. You are on your way to the correct spelling. However, the problem is harder when you do not even know the first letter of the word. You will have to choose somewhere to start - for a word like catamaran you would start either in c or k and follow the same procedure by sounding out and trying to figure out the next letter or letters. You will learn a great deal about spelling by doing this and though it may seem tedious, it is a lot better to go through an exercise like this and learn a correct spelling. It is equally important to read the entry's definitions when you find the correct spelling of the word. Reading the entry reinforces your learning and sets that word in your memory. Remember that correct spelling is key to conveying what you mean in writing. Also, remember that sometimes a word is listed in a dictionary as an inflected form of an entry word or as a derivative or run-on. By learning about all the features of your dictionary, you will know to check all parts of an entry and will often find the spellings you need in the other parts of a dictionary entry.

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