Morphemes are the smallest unit of language that can convey meaning; they cannot be broken down any further into meaningful units.
For example, the word unshockable is made up of three morphemes
un-, shock, and -able.
Shock is a free morpheme because it can be used alone as a complete unit – it is free of other morphemes.
Un- and -able are bound morphemes because they modify a free morpheme. Even though they are not words in their own right, they do have meaning: un- means ‘not’ and -able means ‘able to be’.
Understanding morphemes has been shown to improve spelling – do you remember teachers saying, ‘break it down into chunks’? For example, the suffix
-ian usually refers to a person, so we known that magician is spelt magic
-ian, rather than magic -ion.
As a writer you can broaden your vocabulary, or even invent words more cogently, by breaking them down and combining the appropriate morphemes. Sometimes, flow can be improved by looking at words that have multiple morphemes and replacing them with a single morpheme. One example would be replacing uncomplicated (three morphemes) with simple (one morpheme).