At the end of every Sentence Works course, we have a little section on spelling. Although most people groan, it’s actually one of the most entertaining parts of the day. It’s also the time I get the doughnuts out, which helps too.
Now, I can’t teach people to spell in 15 minutes flat – if I could I’d be a very rich woman – but what I can do it to give delegates strategies on how to remember the words that trip them up.
A mnemonic (ironically a word that is hard to spell) is a technique to help you remember information – spelling, in this case. Put simply, mnemonics are memory joggers or little tricks to help you to remember how to spell a word.
When he was younger, my son kept spelling the word “want” as “whant” (not as daft as it sounds if you think of the word “what”). So I came up with a mnemonic for him – I want Watford to win. As you can see, the “wa” appears in both want and Watford. This works in our household as I have been a huge fan of the Hornets for 35 years and even my Brighton-loving sons are beginning to come round. Non Watford fans (and I believe there are many) can replace it with I want Watford to lose.
We all have words we struggle with. I could never spell the word surprise until I told myself to stop being surprised there was an r in it. Ta-da! I’ve never got it wrong since. A friend asked for tips on how to remember the difference between staring and starring. To help him remember the double r in starring, he told himself he’d like to see a film starring Robert Redford. Bingo again. At one of my grammar sessions, a lawyer for a company mentioned that she couldn’t spell the word calendar – was the penultimate letter an e or an a? I told her to remember that buying a calendAr was an Annual event.
On my courses, I ask people to bring in words that they struggle to spell, and we always see if we can come up with a mnemonic to help. My favourite one was a delegate who brought in the word diarrhoea. I can now spell that word without the aid of spellcheck, because the brilliant group came up with
DIARy of a Really HOrrible Experience Anally.
And now you know that, you’ll never spell it incorrectly again.