A grapheme is a letter or a group of letters that make up a single sound. Graphemes are units of writing corresponding to a single sound. A grapheme (letter) is used to represent a phoneme (sound). In other words, a grapheme is the written form of a sound. For example, the word tap consists of three graphemes t, a, and p. The word trap consists of four graphemes t, r, a, and p. A grapheme can also consist of more than one letter; for example, tch in catch is a single grapheme because it corresponds to a single sound.
A grapheme (letter or group of letters) can represent more than one phoneme (sound). For example, the letter g has a soft and hard sound as in giraffe and get. In each of these words, the letter g is pronounced differently. Further, there are even more ways to spell the soft /g/ phoneme, including j and dge. One sound can have many different spellings or graphemes.
The easy way to remember the difference between a phoneme and a grapheme:
- Graphemes are written letters or combinations of letters. When you forget, think of drawing a graph.
- Phonemes are sounds. When you forget, think of speaking on a telephone.