Phonetic spellings represent the way a word sounds when it is pronounced. Some examples of phonetic spellings are: easy [ee-zee], thought [thawt], alphabet [al-fuh-bet], July [joo-lahy] and automobile [aw-tuh-muh-beel]. Other examples include furniture [fur-ni-cher], crime [krahym], pizza [peet-suh], inheritance [in-her-i-tuh ns] and coffee [kaw-fee].
Phonetic spellings can be constructed by laypersons to aid in learning a new language. However, proper phonetic spellings are written according to the rules of the International Phonetic Alphabet or the Americanist Phonetic Notation spelling systems, also respectively referred to as the IPA and APN systems. The systems, used primarily by linguists, have rules and symbols that represent the specific ways that vowels, consonants and certain vowel-consonant combinations are made to represent a sound.
The IPA spelling system is the international tool used to construct vocal representations of any language in the world. It's based on the Latin alphabet and uses 160 symbols to transcribe a language into vocal representations. This system is most commonly used to transcribe modern American and British languages and dialects.
The APN spelling system was initially developed to transcribe European and Native American languages phonetically. The system has been applied to more languages but remains less ubiquitously used than the IPA system. In the APN system, phonetic spellings are placed inside square brackets.