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 Silent Letters

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Executive Committee Post : General Secretary 2007

PostSubject: Silent Letters   Sat May 10, 2008 3:30 am

Words are often misspelled when they contain a letter that is not pronounced - the silent p in psychology and related words is an obvious example. It's easy to leave out these silent letters. Some letters are particularly likely to give trouble:

> C. Many words are spelled with a silent c following s: for example abscess, descend (with descent); omniscient; words ending in -esce, -escent, or -escence, such as acquiesce, effervescent, convalescent. A silent c may also occur before k or q: examples include acknowledge; acquainted; acquire.

> D. Silent d is easy to omit before j, as in adjourn; adjunct; adjudicate; adjust.

> G. G should precede n in words like align; foreign; reign. G is also sometimes followed by a silent u, as in guarantee; guard; beleaguered.

> H. Silent h is particularly common after r - as in diarrhoea (made harder by the double r and the diphthong oe); haemorrhage (a double r adds to the difficulty again); rhythm.C is another letter likely to be followed by h- in saccharine, for example - and remember the h in silhouette.

While thinking about silent letters, remember the t in mortgage and the b in debt and subtle. Watch out as well for the i in parliament.

Some words may have whole syllables that are not pronounced and may be left out in writing. Contemporary is is often pronounced and spelled contempory; itinerary is similar.

Sometimes the omission of a letter or syllable comes from a mistaken pronunciation. Many people fail to pronounce the c in Arctic and Antarctic, and so leave it out when writing the words. The first r in February is often left out in both speech and writing, as is the first r in secretary. Quantitative may be shortened in speech to the more manageable quantitive, and spelled accordingly.
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