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Vocabulary – Booking Through Thursday

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This week’s Booking Through Thursday question is:

Suggested by Nithin:

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

Ooohh…good question!

I just skip right past it. I’m pretty good at figuring out the meaning of a word by the context, so it doesn’t detract from my reading experience. Lately, it’s all I can do to remember the words I know, so I’m hesitant to add anything new to an already full brain. You’d think by the way I talk I never got past the 5th grade, but I swear I have an extensive vocabulary! I just can’t remember any of it….

To take this a step further, I always assumed people who were avid readers were good spellers. I’m an excellent speller, which I attributed to seeing words over and over again. However, in talking to someone about this, she said that her son was an avid reader and a horrible speller. So I pose this additional question to you: Are you a good speller? (I assume that most people reading this post are avid readers.)

And if you missed my pay it forward post, seriously, go grab a kleenex and read it.

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32 Responses to “Vocabulary – Booking Through Thursday”

  1. BooksPlease

    I think I’m quite a good speller. I’m not good at typing, though, so I do lots of typos!


  2. Kat

    I used to skip past it too. Although there are times that the words stick to my head when that happens, I’d have to go look for it’s definition. It just won’t go away haha.


  3. Julia

    I can figuring out the meaning of a word by the context too. I learn some scottish this way hehehe.

    Hmm I’ve always been avid reader, but I can be terriable speller *grin*.

    Happy BTTs!


  4. Paula Weston

    That’s a really interesting point about good readers not necessarily being good spellers. It probably indicates that people absorb words and stories in different ways.

    I’m sure someone could get a government grant to study that one!


  5. Melody

    I will skip past it too… I’ll too lazy to check them unless I’m working on a computer or if the words are interesting enough. And I think I’m fine with the spelling. 😉


  6. Mikko

    I skip.

    What comes to spelling, I’m pretty good. Of course, that might have something to do with learning English by reading and writing, not speaking and listening.

    In general I think people with English as a second language are less likely to do spelling mistakes like mixing lose with loose or two with too. I can’t understand how someone could mix lose with loose, those are clearly two different words – but I see it quite often.

    Then again, native speaker is likely to have a richer vocabulary.

    The whole thing about spelling is funny from a Finnish point of view in any case, because Finnish spelling is really trivial. A spelling bee would be pointless, because everybody can spell just about any word without problems. Different languages, different challenges, I suppose…


  7. Kristen

    My husband just said the same thing last night — that he is not a good speller (but he reads all the time) and I was confounded!

    For years when my students’ parents would ask how to improve their kiddos’ spelling, one suggestion I would give was to have them read more! I wonder if there is a time-limit on this theory — that people needed to have read alot before a certain age for it to translate to good spelling? Hmmm…

    [I would have thought the same thing (needing to read a lot before a certain age to be a good speller), but the woman I talked to, her son was anywhere from 8 to 12 years old. That seems early enough to impress spelling, but he still wasn’t a good speller. I can’t use myself as an example because I don’t remember when I started reading…I could have been young or I could have been 13. 🙂 –trish]


  8. Jennifer

    Interesting question! I’m pretty good at spelling and I’ve always assumed reading a lot improved your spelling, as well as grammar and vocabulary.
    I also found Mikko’s comment about spelling in Finnish interesting. I remember having lists of words to learn each week all through primary school. Not fun! :-S


  9. tanabata

    I usually just figure out the meaning from the context but occasionally I’ll slap a sticky note on it and look it up later. And I’m a pretty good speller. I always assumed this was from reading too as I’m quite visual with the words, needing to write them down to check the spelling if I’m not sure.


  10. Ann Darnton

    I’m a English Lecturer with a PhD in English Language Studies and I am a terrible speller. I’m always far too interested in what the words are saying to notice how they’re spelled.

    [WOW! –trish]


  11. writer2b

    I’m a good reader and a good speller. I’ve always attributed it to reading a lot…. Good question!


  12. Maree

    I’m a good speller. I have to be, for my job. As for words I don’t know; I don’t strike those very often. But when it’s a real doozy, it’ll stop me for a while. I’m not usually inspired to look it up, because I find that, what happens, is that it comes up in some other context, with meaning.
    If that makes sense …


  13. Nithin

    I try to figure out the meaning, but if I can’t I’ll usually ignore the word and continue reading. Occasionally I do look up the word on the computer, but owing to my laziness, that’s pretty rare.

    That’s an interesting question you’ve asked. I’m good at spellings and hate seeing a word misspelled. My only problem with spellings is with words that are spelled differently in British and American English. At school we encouraged to use British spellings and now in college most of our textbooks use American, so I always feel confused when I have to write a word that is spelled differently in these two forms of English.


  14. Chris@bookarama

    I’m fairly good at spelling but there are words I didn’t know I was spelling wrong until SpellCheck. Then there is the whole American/British/Canadian spelling rules thing. Ack!


  15. thatsthebook

    I am a terrible speller. I feel bad using msn and know I’m spelling something wrong. Ugh, I wish I was a better speller.


  16. Ravenous Reader

    I’m a ravenous reader (have been since the age of three) and a very good speller. But I don’t think it always goes hand in hand.

    I don’t spell phonetically, but photographically – in other words, I see the word in my head before I spell it.

    Hmm…that begs another question, doesn’t it? How do you spell?

    [That’s a good question…I don’t spell phonetically or photographically; the words just make sense to me. It’s more of a feeling than anything else, as strange as that sounds. –trish]


  17. Alix

    I am a terrible speller. I don’t think being avid reader (which I am) helps that much with spelling. Once you can read a word you only need to see the first letter and the basic shape (like that fun email that dies the round on the internet). I blame my spelling problems on my school – phonics were out the window when I was leaning so was grammar. So apologies for any mistakes.

    Interesting question!


  18. softdrink

    Hah, I’m the same way…both a skipper and too lazy to use the big vocabulary that is hidden somewhere in my brain.

    And I added the spelling question to my btt post.

    Hope today is a better day for you!


  19. lisamm

    I’m a great speller (she boasted) I almost never use spell check. I attribute my awesome spelling (boast, boast) to being an avid reader since childhood. However my daughter, also a reader, is not a good speller. She aces all her spelling tests but then doesn’t apply it in her writing.

    Like you and softdrink, I skip over unfamiliar words and don’t try too hard to reach into the memory banks for my extensive vocabulary, preferring to use common everyday language.

    Love and hugs to you, my friend!


  20. bethany canfield

    haha…I am a pretty average speller I think, huh interesting to think about!


  21. Lesley

    I agree with you that when you do come across words/phrases you don’t immediately recognise, you can work them out from context, and make educated guesses.

    As to your other question, one’s ability to spell has little relation to one’s ability to read, or overall intelligence.
    Working as a sub-editor on a paper, I was initially amazed at the poor spelling of any number of very smart people who’d write letters to the editor. And the journalists themselves were not always good spellers.
    But now I know the ability to spell is another matter altogether.


  22. Christine

    I’m an excellent speller, with some exceptions. I have trouble with words that have consecutive Gs and Ds as the middle consonants — I always have to stop and think about whether I want to say “tradegy” or “tragedy.”


  23. wordlily

    I sometimes skip words I don’t know in my reading, unless it somehow sticks in my head, and then I look it up later because I’m curious, even though I figured the meaning out well enough for the reading from the context. [Yikes, I should really edit that sentence!]

    I spell well, and easily, but my sister who’s also an avid reader has difficulty spelling. I really don’t think the two are connected.


  24. Bridget

    I’m a good speller, but like you, were surprised to learn that some avid readers were poor spellers …


  25. Stephanie

    I read like crazy, but am an awful speller!


  26. BookGal

    I used to be a good speller before I started teaching first grade. Now I doubt myself and use spell check more than ever before. I think I see words wrong so much that they seem right.


  27. melanie

    i’m a context girl too. although i do look up words at and i make my kids look up words (in the paper version)they don’t know.
    i think i’m a good best friend who is an avid reader is not. and i’m always surprised by it. fascinating questions…love reading all the responses.


  28. Literary Feline

    I can usually figure out the meaning of a word from the context in which it is used, but not always. My brain is ever expanding even at my old age and so I am always eager to learn new words. 🙂 As for spelling, I pretty good when it comes to spelling. When it doubt, I look the word up.


  29. gautami tripathy

    I mostly skip. However, I keep the word in my mind to look up later. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t!

    Here is my BTT post!


  30. pussreboots

    I am a pretty good speller but I credit my writing and blogging more than my reading.


  31. Cereal Girl

    I skip past most of the time, unless the word gets used again. A word that gets twice by the same author that is unusual enough to be unfamiliar, must be a big deal in that novel.

    About spelling: I think there is a great deal of inborn talent in spelling. You are obviously one of the lucky ones. Spelling never gave me much trouble but for some it is extremely difficult. They have to memorize, work with rules etc. I’m a visual speller which is great in English but causes me to make lots of (grammar-related) errors in French.


  32. Diane

    I em a grate spuller. Actually, I agree with Cereal Girl. I think a lot of the ability to spell is simply part of the brain wiring. But reading sure does help!

    I have a bad habit of breezing through words I don’t quite know. Like you, I get the gist of them and then keep going. If it really stumps me, I’ll go look it up. I know I have to make a better effort to look up new words. English is my husband’s second language, so often he’ll ask me what a word means, and although I can give him a vague description, I feel bad I can’t be more accurate. I’ve got to work on this one! Think I’ll write them down and look them up when the book is set down. You’ve encouraged me!


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