Misspelled Word(s) of the Day – Day 2: -ion Words

Misspelled Word(s) of the Day  - Day 2  - ion Words

Reminder: The purpose of Misspelled Word of the Day is not to try to make everyone a perfect speller, the purpose is to learn from misspellings and then teach the student the misspelled word of the day while instilling an understanding of written language in general. The intention is not to teach students to spell every word in the English language, of which there are more than one million, the intention is to teach the student to think about words differently and learn to question, and understand word structure.

Misspelled Word(s) of the Day  – Day 2:  – ion Words

So, drum roll please….this week’s misspelled word of the day is: <invenshiun>. I love these mistakes because they are so easy to explain and once properly understood, they help the child deeply understand 100s of other words with the same suffix. And that is what this week’s post is about, a suffix issue.

It will only take one word to demonstrate the reality of our writing system that this speller has not yet learned. Now, hold on to you seats, because I am about to tell you something that has major implications for how you analyze words – <tion> and <sion> are not suffixes. They simply do not exist as suffixes. The true suffix is the Latinate <-ion>. Let’s take a look at the word <action> to illustrate this point. The word <action> has the base <act> and the suffix <-ion> which is illustrated in this word sum: <act> + <-ion> à action. If we suggest that the suffix is <-tion> and put it into a word sum to test that hypothesis, we get <ac> + <-tion> and we can then immediately realize that <ac> cannot be the base because <act> is the base of the word  of <action> and as the base, it needs to carry the meaning and <ac> is not a meaningful base. Therefore, the suffix has to be <-ion>. With this new information you can then build a matrix for a whole family of words related in meaning and spelling to the base <act>, but like <sign>, the base had different pronunciations depending on what suffix was added! Below is a word matrix to help illustrate the concept (created with the free mini-matrix maker at http://www.neilramsden.co.uk/spelling/matrix/):

Misspelled Word(s) of the Day  - Day 2:  <ion> Words

Let’s take a look at all of the words the student just learned to read and spell with this new found reality:

act + ed à acted

act + ing à acting

act + or à actor

act + s à acts

re + act à react

re + act + ion à reaction

re + act + ive à reactive

re + act + ive + ly à reactively

act + u + al à actual

act + u + al + ly à actually

Ok, now back to <invenshiun>.  Take a moment to hypothesize what you think the base is of this word is. Write a word sum down. Remember to 1) Think about what the word means, 2) Look for any relatives (see <act> for a refresher about word relatives that share the base) and 3) figure out the morphological parts of the word. Ok, ready for the answer?

What is an invention? It is something that was invented, right? By an inventor? So, we can agree that the base is <invent> (and possibly vent), but for this post, we will go with <invent>. Do you see what I see? The <t> that is usually included in the <tion> suffix is already there – it is part of the base, not the suffix. What the student will notice that the phoneme represented by the grapheme <t> changes to a /sh/when followed by <ion>! Voila – problem and guessing solved! When a student perceives /shun/ or /zhun/ at the end of a word, they will know that it is usually represented by <-ion>.

Some other <-ion> words are: nation:  nat(e) + ion à nation

discuss + ion àdiscussion (this has a probably prefix as well, but we are just looking at <-ion> for now.)

instruct + ion à instruction (in + struct + ion; de + struct + ion; re + con + struct + ion; struct + ure’ struct + ure + al)

Homework: If you have a student that misspells these words, do this exercise with them and report back!


Download a PDF version of this article here.

7 thoughts on “Misspelled Word(s) of the Day – Day 2: -ion Words

      1. Kate

        Thank you for you reply. I’m afraid I didn’t ask my question clearly. I am interested in knowing why the word “decision” is spelled the way it is. I recently saw my early reader/writer write “decition”. I was unsure how to explain and the word “decide” didn’t offer an obvious solution. Thank you for your fascinating work. I am learning so much.

        1. Kris Claek

          Decision and decide are related through what is called twin bases. They come from two different forms, called principal parts, of the same verb. The two parts (2nd and 4rh) of decido are decidere and decisus “literally cut off”. De- is a Latin preposition and an English prefix. So, the English twin base is cide/cise. Same base in excise, incision, concise, precise, homicide, etc. And etymogically related to scissors!

  1. Marisol Jacquez

    Those examples make complete sense. It is easy to see why -ion is the suffix and not -tion in words like connection and rejection. It is also easy to see why the suffix is not -sion in words like repulsion and revise However, this isn’t as obvious with other words, such as collision and decision, since the bases are collide and decide. Can you explain this? Thank you.

  2. Monica

    I’ve been enjoying these articles about misspelled words. I have always been a strong speller, so learning this information for my daughter’s sake is so helpful.

    Is there a specific spelling curriculum that emphasizes root words, and teaching spelling from this vantage point?


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