Mnemonics: Tricks of the English trade

Are you struggling with remembering the spelling of words? Sigh no more as the answer lies in this article! There are many rules that, when learnt properly, can aid your memory of how to spell some tricky words. Take for instance, words spelt with ‘ie’ or is it ‘ei’ you keep asking?  The following rule will guide you into spelling these words correctly.

The rule is ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ when the sound is‘ee’. So, whenever you are to spell a word that has ie, then writeiee.g in believe, relief,brief,die. If the word has ‘c’ then ‘ei’ then write ‘e’ first: for instance: receive, receipt or perceive. But when the ie sounds does not sound like ee, then spell it with ‘i’

first. E.g science, efficient, neighbor etc. If you are in doubt, remember to apply the first rule.

Another interesting rule to aid recall is that the letter ‘Q” never stands alone. It is always written with an accompanying ‘u’. Think of words like quarter, queen, queue and quail. If you find an English word(note I said English, other languages do not follow this rule) that does not follow this rule; call me for a prize!

When writing a word that ends with ful and you are in the valley of indecision about whether to add an ‘l or subtract it, it is useful to recall the rule that the only word that has to ‘ll’ at the end is the word ‘full.’  Therefore, all the words such as: careful, dutiful, merciful, and the often misspelt ‘beautiful’ end with ‘ful’.


As we all know there are always exceptions to the rule. It helps your spelling plenty when you know the unique ones. For instance:

l Argument is the only English word that drops its ‘e’ before taking on a suffix(ending) that is: argue becomes argument.

l Although there are a number of words that end in cede e.g intercede, concede, and only three which end in ceed and these are succeed, proceed and exceed; there is only one word that ends with ‘sede’ and that is ‘supersede’.To aid your memory further when you are need to recall the ‘ceed’ words; think SPEED that is S is for succeed, P is for proceed and E stands for exceed.

These and many more memory device will help you become a more accurate writer. Spell and see!

Lois Nakibuuka is an educator and counselor 

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