D. W. Cummings, a site for spellers, teachers of spelling and reading, and students of English words

D. W. Cummings

A site for spellers, teachers of spelling and reading, and students of English words


We hope to answer your questions about the spelling and reading of English—especially, questions about why English written words are put together the way they are. The paragraphs below direct you to the site's various branches.

Word Builds

While watching my pre-school great-grandson build a startlingly complicated rocket ship out of little Lego parts, I was struck by the approach: Lots of small pieces, together with very detailed instructions – in this case in the form of step-by-step pictures. Word Builds consists of 45 word exercises based on a variation of that Lego approach: the construction of long, complicated words out of many small parts and several kinds of clues. Word Builds are meant to help in the teaching of spelling and vocabulary and thus of reading and writing and to replace, or at least supplement, what has become – especially in the teaching of spelling and vocabulary – little more than rote memorization of short weekly word lists. (June, 2019)

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Compendium of English Orthography

This compendium is meant as a cross between a dictionary and an encyclopedia of topics and concepts that should be of interest and use to teachers and students of English spelling.

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Spelling for Learning

A spelling reference book (with exercises) for language arts and English teachers and other people with a more than passing interest in why English words are spelled as they are.

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The Basic Speller

An inductive spelling program for elementary and middle school students, consisting of eight books of 48 short lessons each.

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Short Articles

Free access to short articles dealing with various aspects of English word study.

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Lexis Database

A free resource for teachers, interested spellers, and scholars of English words in which 129,042 words are analyzed into their prefixes, bases, suffixes, and procedures. (Updated 2016)

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American English Spelling

My study of English spelling, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 1988.

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CommonWords Database

Intended to help Language Arts and English teachers compile specialized word lists for classes in spelling, reading, vocabulary, and grammar.

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Questions and Answers

A listing of the spelling questions and answers compiled over the years.

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Lineages from Indo-European Roots

Upgraded in November, 2019

Interactive maps of the lines of descent, or lineages, from 52 Indo-European roots. The maps show modern English bases, affixes, and words that descend from each root. The bases and affixes are drawn from the explications in the Lexis database. The words are drawn from the Lexis and the CommonWords databases. The venue also presents a map of the Indo-European family of languages, the short essay "Why Study Indo-European Roots?", and a datatable that allows users to search for (i) all of the words in Lexis that descend from a given root, and (ii) the root from which a given word descends.

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