Posted by: Jack Henry | August 20, 2020

Editor’s Corner: How Do You Pronounce That?

Hi, my friends.

I’ve written previously about commonly mispronounced words. And I often get inquiries about how to pronounce certain words—because no one wants to be the nincompoop who gives a presentation and doesn’t know how to pronounce the word asterisk or prerogative. English pronunciation is not always what you think!

So, I’ve got a tip for you today that will ensure that you don’t accidentally embarrass yourself by mispronouncing a word ever again. But first, I want to tell you about a video I came across that explained why even native speakers pronounce lots of English words incorrectly. It’s because many of us learn words from reading, not from hearing words used, and English is not a phonetic language—the letters do not correspond one-to-one with the sounds. So we may see words in writing and guess at the pronunciation, and we may even make a really good guess but just get it wrong. I know for sure that this has happened to me—sadly more than once. (Damn you, acai bowl!)

But before the tip, here’s a little good news: those of you who are worried that tweeting and texting is dumbing down the English language because it has made our attention spans shorter than a hobbit’s legs and because no one seems to care anymore about spelling and grammar and complex thoughts, I have to tell you that people had the exact same fears when AOL and email became popular back in the early ’90s. Yet people are still reading books and expanding their minds. That old argument about ruining the English language has been used about the printing press, newspapers, the internet—even slang and emojis are blamed, and here we still are, some people care about grammar and spelling, and some people don’t. (Shame on them!)

Since all of you do care, and since you want to know how to pronounce those words you’ve only seen in writing, here’s a simple tip: most online dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, our dictionary of choice, have an audio function that gives you the correct pronunciation. Just search for the word you are curious about, and then click the audio icon (which looks like a little megaphone) and you’ll hear the standard pronunciation and maybe even an alternative pronunciation, as with the word coupon (which can start with the sound koo or kew).

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The dictionary is your friend, and since you are often sitting in front of a computer, this friend is right at your fingertips. So don’t be a nincompoop— always check the spelling and the pronunciation if you’re not sure.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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