Writing Tips: Spelling and Vowel Choice
  • 3-minute read
  • 4th November 2019

Writing Tips: Spelling and Vowel Choice

Vowel choice is a key component of spelling. But knowing which vowel to use can be tricky, especially in words that are not spelled how they sound. In this post, then, we’re looking at some common errors related to vowel choice.

Incorrect Vowel Choice

Since vowels can be pronounced in different ways. As such, it isn’t always easy to know which vowel to use based on a word’s pronunciation. The word “separate,” for instance, is often misspelled with an “e” in place of the first “a”:

We must keep the dogs separate from the cats.

We must keep the dogs seperate from the cats.

The “e” spelling may even seem closer to the standard pronunciation of this word, especially when used as an adjective. Nevertheless, as both an adjective and a verb, “separate” should always be spelled with an “a.”

This shows us that it pays to be careful with certain words, as their pronunciation may not be a perfect guide to how they are spelled. Unfortunately, there are no strict rules about when this applies. Some words are spelled like they sound (e.g., pot); others are not (e.g., colonel).

Picking the right vowel is thus usually a matter of experience. And the more words you know, the easier it is to avoid errors related to vowel choice.

Common Problem Terms

To help you with vowel choice, we’ve created a table of words prone to being misspelled. Try to remember the following when you use them in your work:

Incorrect Vowel Choice

Correct Vowel Choice

Definately

Definitely

Cemetary

Cemetery

Privelege

Privilege

Calender

Calendar

Apparantly

Apparently

Repitition

Repetition

Propoganda

Propaganda

Acceptible

Acceptable

Speach

Speech

In some cases, the error is rooted in the origin of the word (e.g., “cemetery” has roots in the Greek word koimētērion, so the confusing third “e” comes from there). But in other cases, it’s just because two letters sound similar. The key thing is checking any term you’re unsure about.

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How to Avoid Incorrect Vowel Choices

The key to correct spelling lies in two things:

  • Practice, Practice, Practice! – There are no universal rules about vowel choice in English. But the more you write and the more words you know, the easier it will be to spot common spelling patterns and errors in English.
  • Careful Proofreading – Spellchecking software is a good start, but asking a proofreader to check your written work is the best way to avoid errors.

And if you need any more help with the spelling in a document, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We have expert proofreaders ready to help.

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