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Today, I have come up with the two confusingly-spelled words: temperature and preparation.

The 'para' in preparation, and the 'pera' in temperation, look quite similar in pronunciation when we read those two words out loud. Hence, new language learners might get confused whether to spell temperature as temparature or temprature. Also, they might get confused in spelling preparation as prepration or preperation.

In a nut shell:

  • Why can't we spell temperature as temparature or temprature, if they all give the same pronunciation?

  • Why can't we spell preparation as prepration or preperation?

Is there any spelling rule in writing such words properly? Are there other words (containing pra, pera and para) apart from temperature and preparation?

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    I wouldn't pronounce them the same if they were spelled that way. – Jim Sep 17 '18 at 18:26
  • I agree with @Jim that your first question is moot because those would not all give the same pronunciation. (On the other hand, as many people are fond of pointing out here, spelling and pronunciation are not necessarily related.) – Hellion Sep 17 '18 at 18:44
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    Related: Can the schwa sound predict spelling? See my answer there. Both "er" and "ar" are possible spellings of /ər/. – sumelic Sep 17 '18 at 18:46
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    1) 'preparation' obviously comes from 'prepare', so there is some expectation to spell them the same whatever the actual pronunciation. 2) Also, English has lots of exceptions to spelling rules, maybe more. So you just have to deal with it. 3) We can't spell them as you suggest because that's not how spelling works, or at least not that quickly. You cant just say "Let's do it this (maybe) better way" had then everybody follows. If people tend to misspell consistently, then maybe it will catch on (like 'alright' for 'all right'). But people don't tend to misspell these two words. – Mitch Sep 17 '18 at 19:05
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    @tchrist: I don't think the difference in acceptability between "temp'rature" and "prep'ration" is related to the spelling. I think it's because in "preparation", the syllable containing the schwa comes immediately before a stressed syllable. The word "operation" is spelled with "er", but I think "op'ration" is no more common than "prep'ration". See the quote in my answer here: english.stackexchange.com/a/308642/77227 For speakers who pronounce "preparatory" with stress on the first syllable, I think the elided form "prep'ratory" is possible. – sumelic Sep 17 '18 at 20:21
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You can, of course, use any spelling you wish. If you use unconventional spellings such as "preperation" in a formal setting, such as an academic paper, the reader may regard your work as inferior, which would interfere with your academic purpose.

There are many rules for English spelling, but most of them are wrong at least some of the time. English borrowed heavily from other languages during its development. Because of this, many things about English are irregular.

For more information, good starting points may be these Wikipedia articles:

protected by MetaEd Sep 18 '18 at 18:06

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