Is Spelling a Part of Grammar? A Guide to Understanding the Differences
  • 4-minute read
  • 17th January 2023

Is Spelling a Part of Grammar? A Guide to Understanding the Differences

Spelling and grammar are both important parts of language – get them right and you can make a great impression, but get them wrong and you could be, at best, a little embarrassed. But they aren’t the same thing.

Let’s have a closer look at each of these aspects, how they differ, and what you can do to improve your skills.

What Is Grammar?

Grammar is the term used to describe:

●  Different forms that words can take

●  How words are arranged to make a sentence that accurately conveys your meaning

This means that grammar is relevant to both writing and speech – although we tend to be more accommodating of grammatical errors in conversational speech.

To help us understand how words form sentences, there are terms for different types of words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, etc.) and their roles within a sentence (subject, object, modifier, etc.)

Similarly, when it comes to verbs, there are names for the different forms that verbs can take. There are three main tenses in English, each with four different forms, including the sometimes forgotten perfect continuous (or perfect progressive).

It may all sound complicated, but the naming of the different types, roles, and forms of words is done to help put them together in an order that helps your reader or listener understand you. And because all languages have the same basic categories, those terms help to determine the word order (syntax) required for a sentence to make sense.

An example may help to explain the role of grammar in terms of syntax. Here are the same four words in different orders:

I do like pies.

In that order, it is clearly a statement.

Do I like pies?

In that order, it becomes a question.

Like pies, I do.

Here, it’s a statement, but one made by Yoda from Star Wars.

A good understanding of grammar can save you from potential embarrassment (or provide a good joke!). There is much potential fun (both intentional and unintentional) to be had with modifiers, for example:

I greedily ate the pie, which was steaming hot and covered in gravy.

This is a descriptive sentence to get the juices flowing.

Steaming hot and covered in gravy, I greedily ate the pie.

Here, however, the writer (or speaker) seems to be in a hot mess.

What Is Spelling?

Spelling is the term used to describe how letters are put together to form words. As such, it’s only relevant to writing: in speech, the different spellings of words that sound alike don’t matter, but this can cause problems when they’re written down.

The English language is notoriously complicated when it comes to spelling – for different reasons:

●  Although the theory is that spelling represents how sounds are written with letters, English is littered with different ways to spell the same sound:

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“Threw” rhymes with “through” and “too

“show” rhymes with “oh

●  There are exceptions to spelling rules:

I before e except after c” – unless you have a weird friend named Keith.

●  There are letters, or groups of them, that can be pronounced in more ways than one:

“Brown,” “crown,” “drown,” and “how” all rhyme with each other but not with “blown,” which rhymes with “crow,” “row,” and “show.”

●  And sometimes, there’s a silent letter:

“Walk,” “scissors,” “climb,” “castle,” “knee,” “honest,” “wreck”

And if that wasn’t enough, English spellings can also change between dialects (e.g., American English uses favors, but British English uses favours) and over time (e.g., email has become email).

Tips for Improving Your Grammar and Spelling Skills

Enough of the challenges associated with grammar and spelling! What can you do to avoid the pitfalls and improve your skills?

Grammatical skills can be improved by learning about the different parts of a sentence and how they fit together to express what you want to say. Reading and listening to the language can help a lot, as the forms and rhythms will become familiar over time.

With spelling, however, individual words often need to be memorized, as shown in the examples above. The familiarization that naturally comes with regular reading will help, and having a good dictionary on hand is recommended too.

Technological advances have provided some solutions in both areas of writing, but these can only go so far. Even the best spellcheckers will miss the idiosyncrasies of the English language – check out this poem if you’re in any doubt. And automated grammar checking doesn’t fare much better because context is so important.

One aspect of technology that will help is the widescale availability of free and reliable online resources. When you’re not sure about something, there will be an answer if you know how to search for it. And this is where knowing the difference between grammar and spelling will help – you can refine your search in line with what’s causing the difficulty. Remember:

●  If the problem has to do with the form of a word or the arrangement of words into a sentence, you need to search for grammar tips.

●  If the problem has to do with the arrangement of letters to form a word, you need to search for spelling tips.

And if you still need some assistance, we have a team of experts in both spelling and grammar available 24/7. You can try out our services for free by uploading a sample document.

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