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How to use this book

To find an explanation of International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, see chapter 2.

To look up the various ways a consonant phoneme is spelt, find its entry in chapter 3.

To look up the various ways a vowel phoneme is spelt, find its entry in chapter 5.

To look up the various ways a grapheme beginning with a consonant letter is pronounced, find its entry in chapter 9.

To look up the various ways a grapheme beginning with a vowel letter is pronounced, find its entry in chapter 10.

To find full lists and numbers of graphemes and phoneme-grapheme correspondences, see chapter 8.

To find lists of the major grapheme-phoneme correspondences, see Table 9.4 in chapter 9 and Table 10.1 in chapter 10.

For teacher-friendlier lists of both kinds of correspondence, see Appendix B.

Rules and hints for writing consonant letters double are in chapter 4.

Some spelling rules for vowel phonemes are in chapter 6.

Chapter 11 evaluates a few pronunciation rules for vowel graphemes.

For discussion of assumptions and technicalities see Appendix A.

To find discussions of individual words, search for them in the online version, as follows:

  • Find the book at
  • Click on ‘READ THE HTML’.
  • In the ‘Search this book’ box enter the word you’re interested in.
  • If this fails to produce even one Google search result, sorry, the word isn’t in the book.
  • But if a Google search result does come up, click on it to bring up the relevant chapter, then press Control+F, enter the word you’re interested in and press Return. Happy browsing!

Caveat emptor: Here are some things this book is not about (see also the penultimate paragraph of section 1.2):

  • It has very little to say about the teaching of spelling – for a handy online guide to that and to the anlaysis of spelling errors, see
  • It does not attempt to teach the technicalities of phonetics or phonology – for those see Cruttenden (2014) and Roach (2009);
  • Because the range of accents with which English is spoken is so vast, attempting to relate English spelling to all of them would produce an encyclopedia, hence this book focuses solely on the British Received Pronunciation accent (and British spelling). Should l live long enough, I may try to produce a parallel volume on the General American accent (and US spelling);
  • It does not attempt to relate the description of the spelling system to psycholinguistic theories about the processes involved in reading and spelling (e.g. ‘dual-route theory’) – for all of that I recommend Snowling and Hulme (2005);
  • It does not tackle in any detail the question of how to tell from the written forms of English words which of their spoken counterparts’ syllables are stressed and which are not – but for some reflections on this see section A.10 in Appendix A.

To hear the phonemes of English pronounced in context with an RP accent, try this British Library website:

For very user- and teacher-friendly guidance on spelling, Jazzy Spelling Secrets: Teacher’s Toolkit, shortly to be published by Jaz Ampaw-Farr of Which Phonics Ltd, sign up to her website: