Cover image for The art of spelling : the madness and the method
The art of spelling : the madness and the method
Vos Savant, Marilyn, 1946-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2000]

Physical Description:
204 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PE1143 .V67 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Examines what spelling reveals about an individual's personality, native intelligence, education, and desire; traces the history of English spelling; and discusses ways to improve one's own spelling ability.

Author Notes

Marilyn vos Savant is listed in The Guinness Book of Records Hall of Fame for highest IQ. She writes the popular "Ask Marilyn" question-and-answer column for Parade magazine and has published numerous books

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Although misspelling is sometimes associated with lack of intelligence and education, it's more likely to be related to a person's organizational skills and personality traits, according to the survey results of Savant's "Ask Marilyn" column in Parade magazine. The major conclusion: people who are organized and are able to follow instructions are more likely to spell correctly than people who are not. Savant reviews the survey results and quotes linguists, lexicographers, and psychologists on spelling. She also looks at variations in pronunciation and word usage over time. Savant instructs readers on how to determine how spelling methods reflect their personalities and provides a personalized approach to improving spelling ability. She disdains the current reliance on spell-checking technology that has its limitations and doesn't get at the root of the problem for misspellers. She also offers handy tips for remembering how to spell difficult words that trip up the best spellers. Interesting, amusing, and instructive. --Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

In 1998, Parade's "Ask Marilyn" columnist Vos Savant did a reader survey about spelling and received more than 43,000 responses. The result of the survey is this book. Vos Savant offers some suggestions for spelling improvement, supplying common roots like anim-, arch-, and spec- and a list of 500 commonly misspelled words. She also includes a few quizzes, with answers in the back of the book. This is not a how-to book, however, for more than half of it examines what spelling ability tells us about intelligence and personality. Vos Savant points out that while it is true that spelling errors reveal a lot about the writer, spelling and intelligence do not necessarily go hand in hand: some highly educated people spell poorly, while some uneducated people spell surprisingly well. Fortunately, everyone can learn to spell better. This well-written book is fun to read and gives hope to the spelling impaired. The bibliography and web site list are nice additions as well. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/00.]DLisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. 13
Part 1 The Madness
1. Spelling Well: The First Step to Graceful Communicationp. 17
2. What Does Your Spelling Say About You? Some Compelling Reasons for Spelling Wellp. 28
3. The Spelling Brainp. 51
4. The Spelling Police: Who Makes Up These Rules, Anyway?p. 67
5. Spelling and Technology: A Love/Hate Relationshipp. 92
Part 2 The Method
6. The Secrets of Good Spellersp. 113
Using the Rulesp. 129
Avoiding Confusionp. 137
7. Some Things to Keep Up Your Sleevep. 144
Diagnostic Testsp. 147
The Value of a Dictionaryp. 152
The Value of Listeningp. 155
The Value of Visualizingp. 156
The Value of Motor Memoryp. 157
Common Rootsp. 158
Common Prefixesp. 159
Common Suffixesp. 160
The Value of Proofreadingp. 164
Mnemonic Devicesp. 165
Commonly Misspelled Wordsp. 167
Answersp. 175
Appendixp. 179
Bibliographyp. 183
Indexp. 187