• 3-minute read
  • 15th February 2020

5 Spelling Mnemonics to Help You Get Tricky Words Right

With silent letters and homophones to confuse things, English spelling can be difficult. To help out, then, we’ve picked five spelling mnemonics (i.e. handy phrases that work as memory aids) for some commonly misspelled words.

Use these mnemonics to avoid errors in your written work!

1. There’s Always ‘a Rat’ in ‘Separate’

One of the most frequently misspelled words in English, ‘separate’ can be a verb meaning ‘set apart or divide’:

They were fighting, so we had to separate them.

Or it can be an adjective that means ‘set apart, distinct or unrelated’:

Marketing and recruitment are separate departments.

And to make sure you can spell this term, you can use the mnemonic:

There’s always a rat in separate.

As such, ‘separate’ is one of the few places you would want to find a rat! This tip works for related words, too, such as ‘separately’ and ‘separation’.

2. Big Elephants Can’t Always Use Small Exits

Another frequently misspelled word is ‘because’. It’s easy to jumble up all those vowels, but that’s where the following sentence can help:

Big elephants can’t always use small exits.

The first letter of each word here spells out ‘because’, so you can use it to remind you of the spelling. And once you’ve pictured an elephant trying to get through a small door, you won’t forget this mnemonic in a hurry!

3. Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move

We’ve gone from words with lots of vowels to a word without any: ‘rhythm’. This can make it a tricky term, but you can use the following phrase:

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Rhythm helps your two hips move.

Again, the first letter of each word here spells out ‘rhythm’. It also works on a literal level, so keep this in mind and you’ll be dancing in no time!

4. Your Principal Is Your Pal

‘Principle’ and ‘principal’ sound the same but have very different meanings:

  • Principle is always a noun and usually refers to a fundamental law or belief.
  • Principal can be either an adjective that means ‘most important’ or a noun that denotes the chief or head of something, such as a school.

So, how can you tell these terms apart? We recommend the phrase:

Your principal is your pal.

Remembering that ‘pal’ is a part of the longer word ‘principal’ will help you choose the right term. And while you may not consider your principal to be your pal, you can at least pretend for the sake of spelling!

5. A Dessert Is a Sickly Sweet

Have you eaten a dessert in the desert? It’s easy to get these words mixed up, as the only difference between them is the double ‘s’ in the former. However:

  • As a noun, desert typically refers to a barren, dry area (e.g. the Great Victoria Desert). And as a verb, it means ‘to abandon’ something.
  • A dessert, on the other hand, is a sweet course eaten at the end of a meal.

To remember the difference, think of the following phrase:

A dessert is a sickly sweet.

Here, the two ‘s’ words (sickly sweet) remind us that ‘dessert’ has a double ‘s’.

We hope these mnemonics will help you with your spelling. But to be extra sure your writing is error free, why not submit a document for proofreading?

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