Spelling Definition

1. Spelling is the proper use of defined grammatical rules for the written form of a language.

2. Area responsible for studying the composition of words and sentences using graphic signs, auxiliary signs and appropriate punctuation marks depending on the meaning to be used.

Etymology: by latin spellingwith respect to the Greek ὀρθογραφία (spelling), consisting of the Greek prefix ὀρθο- (ortho-), of ὀρθός (orthos) which refers to ‘correct’, ‘straight’, and the Greek suffix -γραφία (-graphia), on the verb γράφειν (graphein), as for ‘write’, ‘record’.

Grammatical category: noun fem.
in syllables: orthography.


Indira Ahmed Fernandez
Bachelor of Hispanic Letters

In line with the Oxford Dictionary and the definitions of the Royal Spanish Academy, spelling includes the rules that regulate the written language, the correct ways in which the various words are configured individually and jointly, and in which the auxiliary signs are worked. Note that its use is described only for the written language, which means that in the spoken language these rules do not apply or have a transcendent meaning –although several of the rules consider phonetics for their practice.

Spelling is an intrinsic part of the science of grammar (from where the rules that govern the use of a language are covered, both oral and written) and focuses on communication. Originating from the Greek ὀρθογραφία (spelling), refers to “writing correctly”, a fundamental issue in the effectiveness of the communicative exercise even when the language has factors of change over time, either by the inclusion of idioms or the adaptation of words from other languages ​​(this is one of the forms of neologisms in a language, but this topic is dealt with more deeply in another section).

So: not applying these rules and “violating” the characteristics of the writing of a word is what we call misspellings or misspellings. The correct writing of texts, without these failures, should be essential in the teaching and writing of a language, since a text can lose credibility, authority and quality.

Sadly, this is currently a delicate issue, since technology has led to blindly entrusting writing to text editors that have spell checkers that are not so up-to-date or totally unknown to those who use them. According to some experts, the reasons why a person writes with errors can be:

– distraction
– little importance given to spelling
– little reading
– use of technology and its influence, since young people –above all– write as if they were doing it in text messages, which represents a terrible mutilation of language .

Unification of language and spelling regulations

With the reign of the Catholic kings, Fernando de Aragón and Isabel de Castilla, came the unification of what we know as the Spanish language, which refers to the use of Castilian throughout the national territory. This happened after the unification of the Spanish kingdoms, which made possible the definitive expulsion of the Arabs from the territory in 1492. In that year the “voyages of discovery” of Christopher Columbus also began, which began the process of conquest and colonization. of new territories (in Latin America). That is why the lands that were under the rule of the Spanish crown for several centuries adopted Castilian as their official language.

Spanish is the most widespread Romance language in the world today.

The orthographic regulations of the Spanish language are the result of a process of adaptation and simplification of the ancient uses that the Spanish Academy undertook almost at the same time as the “birth” of the language. In 1844 the “Prontuario de ortografía de la lengua castellana” was published and became a teaching document in public institutions. This is the first successful attempt to promote a norm of use in the language and Andrés Bello himself admires the efforts and liberality of the Academy to introduce useful reforms and the docility of the people to abide by them.

Main spelling rules

The use of punctuation marks, discussed in a previous space, is part of spelling, just like accentuation. But there are other rules for writing in our language.

Since the Spanish alphabet corresponds almost completely to the Latin alphabet, several spellings arose that allowed the correspondence of these with the sounds. Hence the close relationship with phonetics. Some phonemes, for example, /s/ can be represented with different spellings, also considering the spread of Spanish through different countries.

/s/ – distinct
little man

This happens in regions outside of Spain, since in that territory there is a phonetic differentiation of the spellings “s” and “c”.

The phenomenon also occurs with the sound /b/, which in Latin America can be represented by the spellings “b” and “v”.

Examples from the most well-known spelling rules

– before “p” and “b” we write “m”: example, also.

– The endings -cito, of the diminutive formations, are written with “c”: little man, little woman, little flower.

– Verbs ending in -bir and -buir are written with “b”: write, receive, contribute. There are exceptions: boil, serve, live and their compounds.

– The imperfect past tense of the indicative (co-preterite in Andrés Bello’s terminology) with the ending -aba, is written with “b”: was, calmed, loved.

There are also certain phonemes that are represented with diagrams (two graphemes) but these are not included in the alphabet. This is the case of “rr”, “ch”, “ll”, “qu”, “gu”: run, vest, key, cheese, guitar.

Other observations regarding the alphabet and the use of certain graphemes

– The letter “h”, which previously represented an aspiration (something similar to the “j” that we know today), today has no phonological value and has no sound at all. In some words it became part of the spelling, replacing the initial “f”: for example “beauty” became “beauty”.

– the letters “w” and “x”. In the first case, they are used with terms derived from English, such as whiskey. The second case represents a group of two phonemes, corresponding to the sequences “ks” or “gs”, especially in position between two vowels: exam, boxing.

The “ñ” represents a palatal nasal phoneme. This did not exist in Latin, so the use of its sound was adopted differently by the various languages ​​that come from it: Catalan chose “ny”, French and Italian “gn”, Portuguese “nh”. All these spellings correspond to the phoneme that we pronounce in the words Spain, year, childetc.

Finally, it must be considered that, although there are almost immutable rules, spelling suffers temporary variations, since the Royal Spanish Academy, the governing body of the language, accepts with certain periodicity terms that, due to their frequency of use, can be considered part of the language ( although before they were not officially). If you want to have an excellent spelling, it is advisable to be updated with respect to the new regulations.



– Bello, A.: Grammar of the Castilian Language.

– De la Rosa Santillana, NI: The importance of spelling in the production of texts.

– Lapesa, R.: History of the Spanish Language.

– Royal Spanish Academy: Spelling of the Spanish Language.