(as in paper)
Here's another easy rule. Only
four words end in -efy. Most people
misspell them-with -fy, which is
usually correct. Just memorize these,
too, and use -ify for all the rest.
remember it myself.
You add -able to a full word:
adapt, adaptable; work, workable.
You add -able to words that end in
e- just remember to drop the final
e: love, lovable. But if the word
ends in two es, like agree, you keep
them both: agreeable.
You add -ible if the base is not
a full word that can stand on its
own: credible, tangible, horrible,
terrible. You add -ible if the root
word ends in -ns: responsible. You
add -ible if the root word ends in
-miss: permissible. You add -ible
if the root word ends in a soft c
As a former bad speller, I have
learned a few valuable tricks. Any
good how-to-spell book will teach
you more than these two, but these
two are my favorites. Of the
800,000 words in the English lan-
guage, the most frequently mis-
spelled is alright; just remember
that alright is all wrong. You
wouldn't write alwrong, would you?
That's how you know you should
write all right.
The other *
trick is for the
spellers. I mean
those of you who
spell so badly that you
can't get close enough to
the right way to spell a word in
order to even FIND it in the dic-
tionary. The word you're looking
for is there, of course, but you
won't find it the way you're trying
to spell it. What to do is look up
a synonym-another word that
means the same thing. Chances
are good that you'll find the word
you're looking for under the defini-
tion of the synonym.
Demon words and bugbears
Everyone has a few demon
* words-they never look right, even
when they're spelled correctly.
Three of my demons are medieval,
ecstasy, and rhythm. I have learned
to hate these words, but I have not
learned to spell them; I have to
look them up every time.
And everyone has a spelling
rule that's a bugbear- it's either too
difficult to learn or it's impossible
to remember. My personal bugbear
among the rules is the one govern-
ing whether you add -able or -ible.
I can teach it to you, but I can't
Poor President Jackson
You must remember that it is
permissible for spelling to drive
you crazy. Spelling had this effect
on Andrew Jackson, who once
blew his stack while trying to write
a Presidential paper. "It's a damn
poor mind that can think of only
one way to spell a word!" the Presi-
When you have trouble, think
of poor Andrew Jackson and know
that you're not alone.
What's really important
And remember what's really
important about good writing is
not good spelling. If you spell badly
but write well, you should hold
your head up. As the poet T. S.
Eliot recommended, "Write for as
large and miscellaneous an audi-
ence as possible"-and don't be
overly concerned if you can't spell
that you can
and write well
and still be misun-
derstood. Hold your
head up about that, too.
As good old G.C. Lichten-
berg said, "A book is a mirror: if
an ass peers into it, you can't
expect an apostle to look out" -
whether you spell "apostle" cor-
rectly or not.
" his is one of the longest Engtish words
in common use. But don't let the length of
a word frighten you. There's a rule for how
to spell this one, and you can learn it."
(but remember to drop the final e!):
Got that? I don't have it, and
I was introduced to that rule in
prep school; with that rule, I still
learn one word at a time.
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