Conquering Spelling Demons

ID-100629101This post is quite a departure from my other ones, but I have good reason for putting it up. During this Year of Mercy, it’s my attempt to practice the spiritual work of mercy “instruct the ignorant”! For most of my teaching ministry, I taught English. To help my students spell commonly misspelled words, I came up with some devices. These tricks helped me spell, and I thought I’d share them with you. The list here contains my own concoctions as well as traditional ones.

All right:  All right is better than all wrong.

Bulletin:  Who put the bullet in the gun?

Calendar:  It contains days.

Cemetery:  We go to the cemetery with ease.

Committee:  It’s a group, so letters are doubled: 2 m’s, two t’s two e’s.

Dessert:  We like two helpings of dessert.dessert2

Develop:  A final e is “lopped” off.

Exaggerate: It means to add on, so add a g.

February: In February we say, “Brrr.”

Friend:  A friend is a friend to the end.

Grammar:  Gramma knows her grammar.

Hear:  I hear with my ear.

Judgment:  A judge dismissed the e.

License:  c precedes s in the alphabet.

Lose:  It lost an o (not spelled loose).

Magnificent:  There is a penny at the end.

Murmur:  It’s rum-rum backwards.

Mystery:  My mystery is spelling.

Necessary:  We wear one cap and two shoes.

Nickel:  Nickel is an element.

Niece:  A niece is nice.

Parallel:  All parallel lines never meet.

Pleasant:  Picnics are pleasant for an ant.

Principal:  The principal is your pal.

Privilege:  A privileged person (VIP) is well guarded: two I’s guard the v; two e’s guard the g.

Questionnaire:  Think “question” N (and) “air”

Repetition:   The e’s and then the i’s repeat.

Stationery goes in an envelope.

Thorough: To do a thorough job is rough.

Accommodation has 2 m’s as in “modern motel.”


In some cases, spotting smaller words in longer words helps:

Apologize: polo

Attendance: dance

Believe: lie

Conscience: science

Environment: iron

Familiar: liar

Forty: fort

Misspell: miss

Peculiar: liar

Potatoes: toes

Repetition: pet

Sacrament: ram

Shepherd: herd

Separate: a rat

Stretch: etc.

Surprise: rise

Tomatoes: toes

Villain: lain

Weird: we


These are some confusing couples:

Lightning/lightening: In lightning the e is struck out, as by a bolt.lightning-bolt

Truly, sincerely: The longer letter closing keeps the e.

Which, witch: Question words usually begin with wh.

Altogether/all together: Altogether is wholly; all together is all in a place.

Affect/effect:  Affect is for action (verb); effect is a noun.


You might mentally exaggerate the pronunciation in these sticklers:














In these words, mentally pronounce every marked letter:









TIDBIT:  In Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, there were no vowels. Moreover there were no spaces between words. Can you imagine how difficult it was to translate it?  “No where” could just as easily be “How here.”

Do you know of other memory devices for English words that are often misspelled?


  1. Cheryl Zellhoefer on August 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

    there = here
    their = to inherit or own HEIR
    they’re= contraction for they are

    too = in addition so an extra o

  2. Allison on August 17, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    PIEce of pie
    Don’t beLIEve a lie.
    Write lEttErs on stationEry.
    Hear with your ear.
    Embarrass has 2 r’s, 2 s’s; count 1, 2
    The principal is your pal.

  3. Kathleen Glavich, SND on August 17, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Or for embarrass, Allison: “You turn Real Red if you’re So Shy.”

  4. Manny on August 19, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    I’m going to have to save this. These are great. I’m a terrible speller. Thank God for spell check. Thank you Kathy.

  5. Kathleen Glavich, SND on August 20, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Hmm. Maybe I’ll write a book of spelling tips!

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