Front cover







Hello everyone. I’m excited to share the book on spelling that I recently published. The book is called “Beneath the Surface of Words: What English Spelling Reveals and Why It Matters.” It’s available through Amazon at this link in the U.S.: 

From what I can see, you can find the book on any Amazon site (those for different countries) by typing /dp/057832671X right after the Amazon web address. Or just search for the title. When you go there, you can “Look Inside” and see the Table of Contents, read the first few pages of the book, and check out the index of topics, matrices, and words. (I’ll paste the Table of Contents at the end of this post, also.)

One of the reasons I wrote this book was because of the discussions that take place on Real Spellers and other online sites, where I could see that people were having the same experience that I had when I was first introduced to the concepts and ideas that Real Spelling introduced to us all. It took me a long time to understand that morphology is not just an add-on, advanced literacy topic but the framework of the whole spelling system, and to see how spelling conventions connect to that framework. I wasn’t sure of the importance of etymology and had to rethink my understanding of the ways in which spoken language is represented in writing (which don’t always match what we expect). 

The initial impetus for this book, then, was a desire to introduce these ideas in a way that would jump-start the learning process for those who are new to them. Interestingly, I was amazed at how much I learned through the process of defining and explaining the three concepts that became the focus of this book, so I am hopeful that it will also have something to offer to those who have been at this study for a long time.

“Beneath the Surface of Words” explains and illustrates three foundational concepts: 1) the English language is structural; 2) written language has evolved to clarify the identity of words, using more than graphemes alone; and 3) written and spoken language are distinct systems, parallel—with many connections between them—but not direct translations of one another. 

Gail Venable and I are both excited about the way this book and hers complement one another. (Hers is “Backpocket Words: Sharing the Essence of English Spelling” and it’s described in a post that she shared a few days ago.) 

I hope you find this book useful.


For questions, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Beneath the Surface of Words: What English Spelling Reveals and Why It Matters




How Does Spelling Work?

     Introduction: Perspectives

     Chapter One: How Do We Spell?

The Framework of Spelling

     Chapter Two: Words Have Internal Structures

     Chapter Three: Words Come in Families

     Chapter Four: Where’s the Consistency?

     Chapter Five: Morphology Can’t Wait!

     Chapter Six: Things Aren’t Always as They Appear

     Chapter Seven: It Runs in the Family

Relationships Between Spoken and Written Words

     Chapter Eight: Writing Down Spoken Words

     Chapter Nine: Say What?

      Chapter Ten: English Is Morphophonemic and Alphabetic

Establishing the Identity of Words

     Chapter Eleven: What’s That Letter Doing There?

     Chapter Twelve: Are Rules Made To Be Broken? 

     Chapter Thirteen: Form Follows Function 

     Chapter Fourteen: What Else Can Etymology Teach Us? 

Putting It All Together

     Chapter Fifteen: Reframe What You Know 

     Chapter Sixteen: What Lies Beneath the Surface 

     Afterword: Learning More 



     Appendix A: Applying Suffixing Conventions 

     Appendix B: Using Etymological Resources 

     Appendix C: Working With Word Sums and Evidence Banks 

     Appendix D: More on Orthographic Phonology 




Index of Figures and Matrices 

Index of Selected Words