What Are Irregular Words?

Irregular words are an exception in the encoding vs. decoding world of reading and writing. An irregular word is one that needs to be automatically identified. Now, what does it mean when we say that? Irregular words are phonetically uncommon and do not follow phonic “rules.”

While irregular words vary from student to student based on the phonetic concepts learned, a small percentage of English as a whole is always irregular. Alternatively, in irregular words, spellings are not as clearly linked to the sounds used to pronounce the words. Therefore, students must memorize the letter strings to spell and read the words.

Examples of irregular words are:

Once memorized and orthographically mapped in the brain, these words become recognizable on sight. Students see the string of letters and state the word. Understanding the impacts of morphology and etymology helps students bridge the gap between the expected and unexpected letters in irregular words.

Empowered Readers & Writers

Irregular words, as well as phonetic words, may become sight words, which is the goal of explicit instruction – students’ brains function so proficiently, allowing cognitive functions to focus on fluency and comprehension. Ultimately, explicit, systematic, cumulative, multi-sensory instruction in encoding and decoding phonetic and irregular words motivates and empowers readers and writers.


Be sure to check out the rest of our blog series on Encoding vs. Decoding:

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About The Author

Ginny Simank is a Level 4 IMSE OG Master Instructor living in Dallas, Texas. She has a master’s degree (M.Ed.) with a Reading Specialist certificate and holds certifications in special education, English as a Second Language, and generalists for Early Childhood through 6th grade & ELA 4th-8th grades. She is an IDA-certified Structured Literacy Teacher and full-time instructor for the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE), whose mission is to train others across the country (teachers, administrators, tutors, education professionals & parents) in the Orton Gillingham methodology of multi-sensory language instruction. Ms. Simank previously served on the national board of directors for the Learning Disabilities Association and was a member of the LDA’s Education & Nominating Committees.


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