HomegrammarComma Abuse and the Problem With Phonics

The time has come.

If “canyon” is spelled “canyon”, why isn’t “onion”
spelled “onyon”?
by Dubravko Solric, [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

I admit it.

I abuse commas.

Years ago, I came across the phrase “comma abuse”, which means a writer uses too many commas and puts them in places they don’t belong.

I try to avoid doing this, but they do slip through once in a while. I know the rules well enough to have tutored writing in college, so why do I still do it?

Like many people in my generation and those before or after mine, I was taught how to read and write via the phonics method. In my special education days, the teachers drilled the idea of reading what I wrote aloud to spot errors. The rule was to put a comma wherever I paused in a sentence.

That wasn’t such a hot idea. Yes, there are things like colons and semicolons, but those aside, I pause a lot when reading aloud thanks to my dyslexia. When I speak naturally, I pause more often than I probably should, since it takes me longer to come up with the right words.

That odd habit influenced an already flawed teaching method. Phonics would be perfect if the English language was written the way it was spoken.

One of my wonderful nieces is mastering the art of reading and writing. She spells things out exactly as they sound to her, which makes perfect sense.

She spells February as Febuwery, for example.

Personally, I like her version better than the correct one. Who pronounces February as “Feb-ru-ary”, after all?

I still have that problem sometimes, too.

My husband and I watch Supernatural regularly, and the newest episode was based in a fictional spa called Canyon Valley. Since they base their locations off of real places, I decided to see if such a place existed.

Unfortunately, I kept spelling “canyon” as “canion”, to my husband’s  great amusement.

The reason why “ion” was stuck in my head instead of “yon” is because I pronounce the “yo” in “canyon” exactly the same way as I pronounce the “io” in “onion”.

Of course, his correction flustered me enough to screw the spelling of “valley” up, too. Why does “valley” need an “e” in there anyway?

Why have so many common ways of spelling the same sound?

I run into that all the time with my first name, too. I spell it Emilie, but Emily is the most common spelling. When spelling it phonetically, “Em-i-lee” is most accurate, but you see Emilee even less often than the other two versions.

If you really wanted to get creative, I imagine you could probably spell it Ehmihleigh, too.

No wonder spelling and grammar are such hard skills to master for even neurotypical kids, much less those of use with dyslexia and other reading differences.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: