Spelling pronunciations help college students remember how to spell difficult words

Turkan Ocal, Linnea C. Ehri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Studies have shown that children benefit from a spelling pronunciation strategy in remembering the spellings of words. The current study determined whether this strategy also helps adults learn to spell commonly misspelled words. Participants were native English speaking college students (N = 42), mean age 22.5 years (SD = 7.87). An experimental design with random assignment, pretests, training, and posttests assessed effects of the pronunciation strategy on memory for the spellings of 20 hard to spell words. Half of the participants were trained to read the words by assigning spelling pronunciations during learning (n = 21). The comparison group (n = 21) practiced reading the words normally without the strategy. Strategy trained adults recalled significantly more words, total letters, silent letters, and schwa vowel letters correctly than controls. Poor spellers benefited as much if not more from this strategy as good spellers. Results support orthographic mapping theories. Optimizing the match between spelling units and sound units, including graphemes and phonemes, syllables, and morphemes, to create spelling pronunciations when words are read enhances memory for spellings of the words. As a result, higher quality lexical representations are retained in memory. Results suggest the value of teaching college students this strategy to improve their ability to spell words correctly in their written work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)947-967
Number of pages21
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • College students
  • Overpronunciations of spellings
  • Reading and spelling
  • Regularized spelling pronunciations
  • Spelling
  • Spelling pronunciations
  • Spelling strategy instruction

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