Smart Strategies for Star Spellers: Spelling Review Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Smart Strategies for Star Spellers: Spelling Review Practice Exercises

Sometimes in life, it can feel like there are just too many rules to follow. There are rules telling us where we can go, what we can do, and how we should behave. There are rules that are strictly enforced, and rules that can sometimes be ignored. We have different rules at home than we do at school or at work, and still other rules for everywhere else. It can be hard to remember all the rules we're supposed to follow just to get through the day!

Many people feel this way about spelling. There are lots of rules to remember, and these rules are not always consistent. If you read the pretest answers, for example, you might have learned about a famous mnemonic that says, "i before e, except after c." This means that in most words that have the letters i and e grouped together, the i will come before the e, unless there is a c immediately before this combination. So, for instance, in the word piece, the i comes before the e, and in the word receipt, the e comes before the i.


A mnemonic–pronounced –is a phrase or rhyme that is used to make memorization easier. You have probably heard the following mnemonic, which is used to remember how many days are in each month:

      Thirty days has September
      April, June, and November
      All the rest have 31
      Except for February alone.

Another well-known mnemonic is Roy G. Biv, which stands for the order of colors in a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

Mnemonics can be very helpful when it comes to remembering spelling rules. If there aren't any mnemonics for words that you frequently misspell, feel free to show your creativity and make up your own!

The "i before e, except after c" rule works very nicely for most i and e words such as thief, believe, and conceive. But, there are words like beige and concierge that refuse to obey the rule. This is because the "i before e" rule applies only to words in which i and e combine to form a long e sound. If e and i form a long a sound, as in beige, vein, or weigh, the e comes before the i. (An amended version of the rhyme that many people use reads: "i before e, except after c, or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh.") Concierge, on the other hand, is a French word that is spelled according to French rules, not English rules. So right there, already, we have three different rules to remember—for just two letters!

After reading this example, it might feel like improving your spelling is too much hard work. Don't lose heart! There are always exceptions to the rules, but the exceptions are a pretty small percentage of words. If you read this book closely and do the practice exercises and puzzles, you will learn the rules that will help you spell the majority of words. Once you have a good grasp of the basic rules, you will find it much easier to remember the exceptions as well.

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