Spanish spelling

One of the virtues of Spanish is its simplicity of spelling. To avoid making mistakes influenced by English or French, it is worth remembering that the only Spanish consonants which can be doubled up are those which appear in the word CaRoLiNe.

–cc– in words like acción, dirección, reacción
–rr– in words like barra, borracho, borrasca
–ll– in words like castellano, llano, valle

–nn– is relatively rare but note innecesario, innumerable

Castilian pronunciation will help to avoid spelling mistakes with —ll– and —y– because it distinguishes the –ll– of castellano. In parts of southern Spain and in many parts of Latin America —ll– is pronounced as —y– which can cause difficulties in spelling, even for native speakers.

A genuine problem is b and v, which are pronounced the same. Spaniards distinguish them by calling them b de Barcelona and v de Valencia. (Both b and v are pronounced be, without any attempt to differentiate them; the names of the two cities provide the clue to the spelling.)

If you have access to a computer with a Spanish spellchecker installed, it will help you overcome some of the problems you might encounter with Spanish spellings. But just as an English spellchecker cannot sort out whether you need their or there or for or four in a particular context, so it is in Spanish. It is worth remembering that some words in Spanish depend on an accent to distinguish their meanings from other words otherwise spelt identically. So, for example:

yes andthe third person reflexive pronoun: herself, himself, itself and themselves 
solo alone
me (para mí)
tea

Note that many people, including Spanish native speakers, write , influenced by . This is incorrect and the proof is that there is no other word with which ti can be confused.

A second group of words differentiated by accent are those corresponding to English, who, where, which, why, when and how in direct and indirect questions. In both these cases the accent is used.

¿Quién la acompaña? Who is accompanying her?
¿Por qué no lo compras? Why don’t you buy it?
Note the indirect use:
Me preguntó cómo te llamabas.

She asked me what your name was.