Spell your way to success
Eating endless amounts of food displayed on a half dozen humongous buffet stations positioned throughout a huge serve-yourself cafe.
Watching Las Vegas style stage shows. Eating more food from the buffets. Playing blackjack in the casino. Eating food again from the buffets. Dancing to live bands. Eating food continuously from the buffets. Visiting local tourist attractions.
And, of course, eating food yet another time from the buffets.
If you have ever been on a cruise, the activities above probably sound familiar. Particularly the part about eating. On most ships, stuffing yourself at breakfast, lunch and dinner almost becomes a full-time job. But earlier this month, on a 10day Royal Caribbean cruise that conveniently started in Baltimore just a few hours from Chester County, I threw myself into an entirely new vacation pastime. I had do. All that eating was starting to show on my waistline.
So what activity did I become intrigued with? Spelling. Say what? Yes, as part of its wall-towall passenger entertainment, the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas held an old-fashioned spelling bee somewhere on its voyage along the Atlantic Ocean to Canada and back. The contest attracted 18 participants, including me. I signed up to see how I would fare without spell check.
Not so good. I lasted about a half dozen rounds until the mistress of ceremonies gave me the word, “tyrannosaurus.” Having little familiarity with prehistoric beings, I initially thought she said thesaurus – which would have been within my bailiwick as a writer. But oh, no. As you probably realize better than I, “tyrannosaurus” is the name assigned to one of the largest dinosaurs that ever lived on this earth. It was capable of eating 500 pounds of meat in a single bite, in my view making it an ideal passenger on a cruise ship.
Anyway, I flamed out on “tyrannosaurus,” failing to win so much as an honorable mention in the spelling bee. I came in an embarrassing sixth. Obviously, I should have paid closer attention to the dinosaur-laden film, Jurassic Park. When I got back on land, I decided to brush up on my rusty skills. In my communications seminars, I regularly write on flip charts and white boards with only my memory to come up with correct spellings.
I searched the Internet for advice. I was amazed at the large number of articles and advertisements geared toward grownups.
“It is well known that English spelling is very hard and many adults struggle with this subject,” notes a dedicated website called www.spellzone.com. “There are many computer programs to help children with spelling, but most are not suitable for adults. You may not have received the help you needed at school, and Spellzone can fill those gaps.”
Even in this electronic age, I suggest that spelling continues to be a useful trait in the workplace. One example is scribing ideas on a flip chart during frenetic brainstorming sessions. Here are some tips to help if you happen to be spelling challenged.
• Focus on common bugaboos. Certain words pose the greatest number of spelling problems. Among them are “separate” and “psychology.”
But you might be astonished to learn that many educated professionals put an extra “t” in the word “writing” – even when they are attending a workshop
on that subject.
• Create memory devices. I sometimes think a correctly spelled word looks wrong. One example is “environment.” I used to struggle to include the silent “n” in the third syllable. My solution was to come up with the following sentence: “We need to iron out problems in the environment.”
• Make spelling fun. Huh? I know, I know, I know. But a website called www.readingrockets.com suggests you pretend you are conducting a police investigation when trying to master spelling. “You must become a word detective, engaged in an ongoing attempt to make sense of word patterns and their relationships to one another,” Reading Rockets explains.
• Chant the old rules. A helpful one is “i before e, except after c or when pronounced like neighbor or
weigh.” This rule applies to the frequently used “receive,” as in “It wasn’t fair that I received ‘tyrannosaurus’ in the spelling bee.”
• Break words into parts. If you need to write a long word such as “nomenclature,” which refers to terms in a particular field, chunk it into its four syllables: no-men-clature. As in many things in life, spelling tends to be a cinch by the inch, but hard by the yard.
• Beef up on contractions. These are words where you replace a letter with an apostrophe. Two sets that botch up many people are “it’s and its” and “you’re and your.” A solution is to say the word in full, as my new affirmation, “You are a terrific speller.” If it makes sense, use the contracted form. If not, go with the other choice.
• Treat yourself gently. Spelling ability has little connection with your native intelligence. Or so I hope. Despite my early elimination from the shipboard competition, I am glad I entered. Why? Because I learned a lesson that will help me on future cruises: “Stay away from spelling bees and hang out at the buffets.
Or is it “buffetts?”
Kathleen Begley of East Goshen owns Write Company Plus. She gives communications seminars and writes for business publications. In entertaining and informative training sessions, Begley helps clients achieve success by teaching them ways to present with confidence, write without stress, deal with difficult people – and more. She has taught at 12 colleges and universities around the nation, including the MBA program at Penn State. Begley produces this column packed with news-you-can-use tips every Sunday in the Daily Local News. She responds to all reader feedback. You can reach her at KBegley@writecompanyplus.com