Macquarie Dictionary. The Great Australian Spelling Book. Pan Macmillan, 27 Oct 2015, 160pp., $16.99 (pbk.), ISBN 9781743547311
On page 25 of The Great Australian Spelling Book is a statement that every school child knows is true: ‘English is a disorderly language.’ The ‘ay’ sound, for instance, appears in the following nine words and is spelt differently each time: ‘bake, ballet, maid, straight, gauge, great, veil, grey and weigh’.
Fortunately, help is at hand. The Great Australian Spelling Book, written by the Macquarie Dictionary’s editors, is the official dictionary of the television show The Great Australian Spelling Bee. As such, it begins with tips for spelling competitions before moving on to tackle thorny issues like silent letters and homophones and words with unpronounced syllables (like Wednesday and vegetable and sovereign). There is a useful section on words borrowed from other languages, including Indigenous languages, as well as a chapter on prefixes and suffixes and how they are used to build words.
The final third of the book is devoted to grammar and punctuation. (You, too, can learn the difference between an abbreviation and a contraction, and come to grips with intransitive verbs and subjunctive moods.)
Throughout the book, detailed information is interspersed with break-out text boxes, memory tricks, quizzes and activities.
Although aimed at children in the 8‒13 year age group, this book will soon take its place on my own bookshelf alongside hard copy dictionaries, style manuals and guides to English usage. But for now, I’m off to fill in the answers to the homophone crossword … just as soon as I’ve mastered the spelling tip for ‘diarrhoea’.
Recommended for ages 8+
Reviewed by Tessa Wooldridge