So You Think You Can Spell?
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN SPELL? Killer Quizzes for the Incurably Competitive and Overly Confident
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So You Think You Can Spell? -- is it remedial, pedagogical, academic?

No way! It's not another compendium of commonly misspelled words. Not a discussion of spelling rules and pitfalls.

A book for adults of any age as well as 12-year-old spelling bee phenoms, SYTYCS? is a pocket-sized paperback offering real spelling action in a way that is ever lively, entertaining, and challenging. Packed with quizzes (with words both common and uncommon) to test or best you, it's designed to appeal both to the privately curious and self-improving speller and to the more venturesome participant in adult spelling bees now flourishing across the United States.

Along with tests galore, there are essay features -- on how and why English spelling came to be so infernally illogical and difficult; on who Webster was and why today his iconic name is synonymous with a modern American dictionary; and on the history of the "simplified spelling" movement, whose adherents continue to make a case for reforming our vexing orthography. ("Enuf is enuf," as their protest signs read, annually, at the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.)

Mark Twain, of course, also had his droll opinions about the importance of correct spelling. The book includes his amusing introductory remarks tendered in 1875 as a prelude to an important East Coast spelling bee.

In addition, there's a brief history of the spelling bee in America as well as some practical advice for "wanna-bees" -- anybody hankering to create, plan, and produce his or her very own spelling bee.

With its clever and provocative variety of test formats, this book will definitely be a must-have not only for grammar vigilantes and word lovers but for puzzle aficionados.

The Tests

Quizzicles? Fluster Clusters?


They’re both uniquely different types of spelling tests. There is only one place you’ll find them.


If you welcome having your spelling smarts tested in every which way, you’ve come to the right book!


There are more than 200 tests/quizzes in So You Think You Can Spell? -- ranging from three questions to fifty. All in all, the book will test your knowledge of the correct spelling of more than 1,500 English words.


Complementing 15 general (or miscellaneous) multiple-choice tests are  15 that present, instead of spelling choices, a phonetic (or fo-NET-ik) version of the word to be spelled. Other quizzes use other approaches in their formats. 

For example, there are quizzes requiring you: 

to add the correct (one of two) suffixes 

to fill in each word’s missing (interior) letters 

to match definitions to homophones -- pairs of often confused words similar in sound but differently spelled 

to choose whether one word or two words is, according to the dictionary, the correct form in writing 

to indicate which words have a doubled letter and which don’t  

to provide (in loan words, or “foreign borrowings” so abundant in standard English) the correct accent marks 

to spell brief but maybe not-so-simple-to-spell one-syllable words  

to give the weird but correct plural forms of particular foreign-borrowed English words (you might call them “singular plurals”) 

to consider three misspellings of a word and fill in the correct spelling 

to read brief humorous passages crammed with sound-alike words and determine which are misspelled 

to choose the correct spellings of 100 American cities; or (in a separate test) of countries, provinces, islands, rivers, etc., around the world 

to rearrange groups of scrambled letters into the words indicated by the definitions 

to provide, from phonetic pronunciations and definitions, the correct spellings of either three words or five words diabolically chosen to raise doubts or second thoughts  

And that’s not all. A culinary test confronts you with a menu of 50 recherché – and error infested –international-cuisine dishes. Which 17 need to be respelled correctly?

And did we mention that SYTYCS? finishes (you?) up (off?) with five Killer Bees? These are mere ten-worders but quizzes that unscrupulously bring together (a) uncommon words having (b) common -- or even identical -- pronunciations and (c) entirely different spellings.

DAVID GRAMBS has been interested in words since college. His first job in New York was as a definer on the staff of the American Heritage Dictionary. Here and there he's also worked as a juvenile fiction editor and writer (Stratemeyer Syndicate: Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries), German and French translator, encyclopedia editor-writer, psychology textbook reviser, Caribbean travel-guide reporter, and magazine copy editor and contributed to dictionaries published by Random House and Oxford.

He is the author of The Describer's Dictionary (A Treasury of Terms and Literary Quotations for Readers and Writers) and The Endangered English Dictionary (Bodacious Words Your Dictionary Forgot), both published by W. W. Norton & Company.

ELLEN LEVINE is a web producer who also does marketing, publicity, and public relations for a variety of clients. She has been an editor of college publications, travel guides, and one too many résumés (that's with two acute accents, please). She earned (Brooklyn College) an M.F.A. degree in creative writing (poetry) under John Ashbery and has also written for stand-up comedians and cartoonists. She considers herself only an average speller but admits to being quite a pain in the neck regarding others' misspellings. She hasn't competed in a bee since fourth grade -- yet.

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