I'm an experienced writer but a bad speller. As in hopeless, I think I'm missing the spelling gene. So when computers came along, with spellcheckers,
well -- hallelujah!

Take that last word for example. You don't want to know, and I'm not going to tell you, how many times my run at it on our computer produced that familiar red wavy underline -- or, when I juggled the letters, how many times my spellchecker told me: "no spelling suggestions." Freely translated, that means: "you're not close enough to any known word in the English language for me to even guess what you mean!" Arrogant little machine.

It wasn't until a little later that we discovered the other great problem with spell-checking programs, right? They don't differentiate: they're quite happy with wood and would. They only look for spellings, not meanings.

Which brings us to this little booklet, the fifth in a series by my favourite word coach, Deborah Wright. There are a parcel of commonly used words which give us non-spellers fits when they get stretched. As in "begin" and "beginning," "argue" and "arguing." Then there's the "ie" thing. The only rule I can recall from school was: "I before e, except after c, or when used as a, in neighbour or weigh." I think that was in Grade 5 and it's just not enough to take you through the rest of your life.

All those mean words, the wretched things, are here. Deborah lays out lots of tips for getting them right. Frankly, some of the rules I could never remember. But I don't have to. This booklet has a neat index, so concise, so easy to find; I can peek into it and get sorted in much less time than it takes me to spell -- hallelujah!

Don Vipond
Former Editorial Page Editor
Times-Colonist, Victoria, BC, Canada