Top 20 Spelling Mnemonics

Memory Prompts for Commonly Misspelled Words

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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), FANBOYS (for the coordinating conjunctions in English grammar), Every Good Boy Does Fine (for the notes on the lines of the treble clef).

But such memory prompts—known as  mnemonics (pronounced ne-mon-icks)—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."

So 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 201 Most Commonly Misspelled Words in English.

Research suggests that 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 herself at 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.
  1. Goofy Greg loved to exaggerate.
  2. That liar looks familiar.
  3. Generally, a general is your best ally.
  4. Mom ate immediately.
  5. An island is land surrounded by water.
  6. I alone felt Eli's loneliness.
  7. Miss Pell never misspells.
  8. It's necessary to remember the cesspool in the middle.
  9. Please keep quiet about my diet.
  10. It's better to give than to receive.
  1. Rhythm helps your two hips move.
  2. There's a rat in separate.
  3. It's truly hot in July.

For additional help with spelling in English, see our Top Four Spelling Rules (With Exceptions). And for help with homophones and other confusables, see 200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs and our Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words.