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Using Mnemonics For Spelling Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Using Mnemonics For Spelling

In this lesson, you will learn about mnemonics—memory aids to help you become a better speller.

TALK ABOUT A tricky word! Mnemonic might be a hard word to spell, but it is a simple concept. Meaning memory aid, mnemonics can be handy for helping you remember spelling rules, or how to spell particularly difficult words. They are typically phrases or rhymes that are used to make memorization easier. The idea behind mnemonics is that people remember best when more than one function of the brain is used to process information.

Simple mnemonics can be created from rhymes, tunes, or acronyms. You may recall the acronym Roy G. Biv, the grade school mnemonic used when learning the colors of the spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). Mental pictures and stories are also useful mnemonics.

Quite a few mnemonics apply to spelling. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • i before e, except after c.

This clever rhyme is one of the best-known mnemonics. It means that in most words that have the letters i and e grouped together, the i will come before the e, except in words where there is a c immediately before this combination. For example, in the word niece, the i comes before the e, and in the word receipt, the e comes before the i because the combination is preceded by a c.

  • When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.

Let's break down the rhyme to fully understand it. When two vowels go walking refers to a two-vowel combination in a word. For example, abstain, flea, foe, and true. The first one does the talking means that in the two-vowel combinations, only the first vowel is pronounced and the second one is silent. In the case of our examples, you hear the long a in abstain, but not the i. In flea, you hear the long e but not the a, and in foe you hear the long o but not the e.

  • You hear with your ear.

This is an easy way to differentiate the words hear and here. If you remember the mnemonic, you'll remember that the word ear is in the word that means to listen to.

  • Desserts have two sugars.

This one will help you avoid confusing desert (the sandy, arid land) with dessert (the sweet ending to a meal). Sugars then, refers to the ss in the word dessert.

  • There is a rat in separate.

So often, the word separate is misspelled as seperate. Remember the rat to remember the correct spelling!

  • The principal is my pal.

This mnemonic will help you distinguish between a pair of frequently confused homonyms. (Homonyms will be explained later, so don't worry if you're not sure what they are.) If you remember that the principal of your school is your pal, you will not confuse the principal of a school with the word principle, meaning rule of action or conduct.

You can devise mnemonics for any spelling rules or words you find particularly difficult. Here are some tips on creating mnemonics that will be easy to remember and, therefore, useful. (If you can't even remember your mnemonic, it won't help you to remember your spelling!)

  • Use rhymes, rhythmic patterns, or tunes.
  • Try humorous or odd sayings that will stick in your mind.
  • Exaggerate features or images to make them vivid.
  • Make your mnemonics personally meaningful.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Using Mnemonics For Spelling Practice Exercises

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