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Top 20 Spelling Mnemonics

Memory Prompts for Commonly Misspelled Words

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Top 20 Spelling Mnemonics

As kids we learned to rely on little memory prompts: ROY G BIV (for the sequence of colors in a rainbow), HOMES (for the names of the five Great Lakes), Every Good Boy Does Fine (for the notes on the lines of the treble clef).

But mnemonics, as they're called, aren't just for children. In an article titled "Stalking the Wild Mnemos: Research That's Easy to Remember," educational psychologist Joel R. Levin concluded that "sufficient research evidence now exists to suggest that even skilled learners can become more skilled through mnemonic strategy acquisition and implementation" (1996).

While we may not admit it, some of us still fall back on mnemonics to recall the spellings of tricky words--such as those in our list of the 200 Most Commonly Misspelled Words in English.

The most effective devices tend to be the ones we make up ourselves (and the sillier they are, the better). But some classic mnemonics can't be beat. So here, with thanks to my students and colleagues for their contributions, are 20 of the most popular spelling mnemonics.

  1. Gumbo lost an e in an argument.

  2. Never believe a lie.

  3. Dara checked the calendar every day.

  4. Eileen found her e's in the cemetery.

  5. Emma faced a dilemma.

  6. It's hard to embarrass really righteous and serious students.

  7. A new environment will iron me out.

  8. Goofy Greg loved to exaggerate.

  9. That liar looks familiar.

  10. Generally, a general is your best ally.

  11. Mom ate immediately.

  12. An island is land surrounded by water.

  13. I alone felt Eli's loneliness.

  14. Miss Pell never misspells.

  15. It's necessary to remember the cesspool in the middle.

  16. Please keep quiet about my diet.

  17. It's better to give than receive.

  18. Rhythm helps your two hips move.

  19. There's a rat in separate.

  20. It's truly hot in July.

One popular mnemonic has been left off this list. As explained in the post Why the Principal Is Not Our Pal, some memory aids can create more problems than they solve.

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