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Spelling – A Lost Art and Why Mnemonics are Not Demonic

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I always knew I was a good speller. I even had the honor to represent my grade school in a local area spelling bee once. But, what I didn’t realize was how fortunate I really am! With the advent of social media, it’s become very apparent that proper spelling is a lost art, even with spellcheck. And, don’t even get me going on improper punctuation and grammar!

The good news is that if you are someone who has always had difficulty spelling, then this is the blog for you! Here are some great tips and mnemonics, to not only help you remember the proper spelling of a few of often misspelled or misused words, but to also help you remember some common grammar mistakes and random facts.

receive – didn’t everyone learn “i” before “e” except after “c”?

capital vs. capitol – what’s at the top of the U.S. Capitol building? A dome.

desert vs. dessert – the double letters stand for strawberry shortcake.

principle vs. principal – the headmaster of your school is your “pal”.

stationary vs. stationery – the “er” is included in the word “paper”.

compliment vs. complement – a compliment is the opposite of an insult, and a complement usually enhances something (e.g. That blue shirt complements your blue eyes). In short, i = insult and e = enhance.

And, here’s one word I always having trouble spelling (along with that place you go to when eating out) and found this mnemonic when researching content for this blog:

rhythm – think about dancing to music and this sentence: Rhythm helps your two hips move.

See also: Five Microsoft Word Tips That Could Save You Time

Grammar 101

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Now that you have the spelling tips safely tucked away in your memory bank, now it’s time for a few grammar tips:

who vs. whom – if you can’t decide which to use, answer the question. If the answer to the question uses one of these personal pronouns “him,” “her,” or “them,” then the correct word to use in the question is “whom”. For example, the answer to the question, “Who are you going with?” is “I’m going with him/her/them.” Therefore, the proper question is: “Whom are you going with?” (Actually, if you use proper English, the correct question would be “With whom are you going?”, but that’s another blog topic!) Remember the “m” in him/them goes with the “m” in whom.

to vs. too – so what’s the difference between these two words? One of the definitions for the word “too” is “more than enough; excessively.” How to remember this? Simply by the fact that there is more than one “o” in the word too! For example, I see bad spelling too often on social media NOT I see bad spelling to often on social media.

affect vs. effect – Affect is usually a verb, and as you know, verbs are action words. Effect is almost always a noun. To affect something is to change or influence it, and an effect is something that happens due to a cause. When you affect something, it produces an effect. Remembering that “a” = action will help you determine when to use affect instead of effect.

See also: For All Intensive Purposes, It’s Time for a Grammar Lesson, Irregardless of What You Think

Fun with Mnemonics

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Who remembers this mnemonic from their grade school music class and for what it was used to remember? Every good boy does fine. (Answer: the order of notes on the treble clef – E G B D F). What about the mnemonic for the spaces between the lines? (Answer: F A C E).

You may also remember that Roy G. Biv, was not your long lost cousin, but was the mnemonic for the order of the colors of the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet).

And, finally, one of the most memorable mnemonics I learned was in my astronomy class in college (probably because I didn’t learn much else in that class!). It was an easy way to remember the order of the planets. Unfortunately, it no longer works because Pluto is no longer a planet, but here it is anyway:

Mercury – Mother
Venus – Very
Earth –Eagerly
Mars –Made a
Jupiter – Jelly
Saturn – Sandwich
Uranus – Using
Neptune – No
Pluto – Peanut Butter

So what’s your favorite mnemonic? Do you have a specific way of remembering hard-to-remember words, phrases, or fun facts? Please share, I would love to know!

About The Author

MaryKay Scott
MaryKay Scott is an Account Manager for Marketing In Color. She is a northwest Indiana native who comes to Tampa from the Midwest, where she worked for the NBA's Indiana Pacers. MaryKay, a self-proclaimed animal lover (the proud owner of two dogs and one cat), is the primary liaison between MIC's internal team and several key clients.
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