Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Remember Commonly Misspelled Words: Lightning

You know, the English language can be hard sometimes. It's a mishmash of a bunch of other languages with seemingly random grammar and spelling rules. Sometimes remembering the correct spelling of a word comes down to rote memorization.

Which is where this post comes in. The way I usually remember spelling rules is by associating the spelling of words with their meaning. Sometimes this comes unwilling due to some synesthetic tendencies that I have, such as letters having feelings or different spellings of words having different colors, which makes it easier to remember. But some of the spellings have to do with conscious memory aids, and I'd like to share some of them with you to see if they help.

Lightning vs. Lightening

I see this mixed up all the time. Let's see if we can shed a little light on the situation.

When talking about lightning, "a brilliant electric spark discharge in the atmosphere," remember, the word is short and snappy like the event itself: light-ning. No room for that "e" in here. Just two syllables. 

Imagine a streak of lightning. Feel the brilliant electricity crackling in the warm air. Then all of a sudden it flashes into light - and then it's gone. Light-ning.

However, when talking about lightening a load, that extra "e" is what stretches that word into three syllables: light-en-ing - as if you're lifting that pack off your back, swinging it down, and dropping it on the ground. Feel the weight of the load on your shoulder, feel the muscles stretching as you lift it off, feel the tug of the gravity pulling it down, feel the relief on your shoulders, the lightening. Light-en-ing.

So remember this: if you're talking about a streak of lightning say it short and snappy in your mind: light-ning. Otherwise spell it light-en-ing, three syllables, like the action.

Isn't English awesome?

If these word-pictures help you, that's great, but not all memory aids work for all people. Do you have a certain association in your mind that helps you remember certain spellings? What are some other commonly misspelled words that you'd like me to feature?

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  1. But do you have a nifty way to remember "compliment" and "complement," because I have to look that up -every- time.

  2. It is ironic how many words are similar - or have similar meanings, yet still they get misspelled or misinterpreted. Thanks for the written - and visual, reminders, Lauren. :)

    Hope you have a spectacular holiday week! :)

  3. Nice. But I take exception with your statement, "Sometimes remembering the correct spelling of a word comes down to rote memorization." I think it should be "Usually" rather than "Sometimes". That's what makes English so much fun.



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