What Are Your Favourite Spelling Memory Aids?

What Are Your Favourite Spelling Memory Aids?
spellingerrorsThe UK is eliminating the “I before E except after C” rule from formal teaching, but what other spelling aids help you stay accurate?

BBC News reports that the well-known rule for making sure you spell ‘receipt’ correctly is being eliminated from official curriculum documents, on the grounds that there are more exceptions than actual examples. What’s really interesting is not that decision (which seems fair enough), but the comments on the report, which offer up a wealth of ways to memorise tricky words and spelling distinctions. Particularly good? “Do in a rush, run home, or expect accident” to remember the spelling of diarrhoea. There are even three separate methods for how to remember the distinction between stationery and stationary, though my own version (you use stationERy to write a lettER) isn’t in there.

Rhymes and mnemonics aren’t the only solutions, of course. I always keep track of the practice/practise distinction (first is a noun, second is a verb) because I can instantly conjure up the logo for 1980s Australian TV medical drama A Country Practice in my head. (That’s also useful for the identical licence/license distinction, which comes up a lot in tech.) What tricks do you use to memorise difficult words, or have you abandoned yourself entirely to the spellchecker? Share your secrets in the comments.

Schools to rethink ‘i before e’ [BBC News]


  • You accidently mangled a quote there so that the “Diarrhoea” mnemonic made no sense.

    The commenter said, “Do in a rush. Run home, or expect accident’. Not, “Do _it_ in a rush…”

  • Not spelling but also important:
    30 days has September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31 except February and if you cant figure that out you shouldn’t talk about the others every leap year.
    Also never underestimate the goodness of spelling “sandwich” properly.

  • Again not about spelling…but a bizarre mnemonic someone told me when I was a kid to remember the roman numerals (50 to 1,000: L,D,C,M). “Let cockroaches dig mines”

    • if ever a post has called for spelling and/or grammar nazis it’s this one; so is it cockroaches digging the mines or shall we dig for cockroach deposits?

    • Is it me, or is there another typo on this comment…?

      Quote: (50 to 1,000: L,D,C,M). “Let cockroaches dig mines”

      hmm the mnemonic is correct, but the preceding explanation isn’t. (L,C,D,M is correct for 50,100,500,1000, not L,D,C,M)

  • When I was in year 7, my teacher taught me how to spell onomatopoeia. You say P-O-E-I-A as if you’re singing E-I-E-I-O from the Old MacDonald song. That way, you wouldn’t get the last five letters of onomatopoeia mixed up.

  • Having grown up in the south, “M I crooked letter crooked letter I crooked letter crooked letter I humpback humpback I” spells “confederate redneck”.

  • I don’t have any spelling tricks – I tend to just remember most words – but I do still remember the rhyme for sharps/flats in musical key signatures:

    For sharps:
    Father Christmas Gave Dad An Electric Blanket

    For flats:
    (the) Blanket Exploded And Dad Got Cold Feet

    or the one I preferred as a kid:
    Baby Elephants Always Drink Good Cocoa Fast

    And it’s only writing these out that’s gotten me to realise that one is the opposite of the other (F,C,G,D,A,E,B – B,E,A,D,G,C,F), which makes sense really. Hmm. Learn something new every day…

  • And does anyone want to know the mnemonic for figuring out the Doomsday of a given year this century (you add that to the rule for what day of the week is any day in the year if you know the doomsday)

    It is “2 dozens remain for the day”

    The doomsday for 2059 is
    2 + 4 (dozens) + 11 (remainder) + 2 (two fours in 11) = 19 = Friday (count from Monday through the days)

    Look up Doomsday in Wikipedia to get the day of the week for any day of the year if you knwo the doomsday, but in short it is
    If Doomsday is an _x_day (e.g. Friday) then the following days will be an _x_day:
    4/4, 6/6, 8/8, 10/10, 12/12 (super easy)
    5/9, 9/5, 7/11, 11/7 (easy enough)
    March 7, 14, 21, 28 (also March 0!)
    non-leap years: Jan 3 and Feb 28
    leap years: Jan 4 and Feb 29
    (okay, you have to remember these ones)

    This all stems from John Conroy looking through a calendar for co-incidents, and finding them.

    So I will turn 100 on July 19, 2059, a Saturday (will I notice?)

    Enjoy the other comments.

  • The most useful I know is to distinguish between practice (noun) and practise (verb). Make the connection to advice (noun) and advise (verb) – the morphology is the same but the distinction in pronunciation has been lost from practi[c,s]e.

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