Saturday, May 19, 2007

Q & A on Writing. "-sede," "-ceed" and "-cede."

The “-sede,” “-ceed” and “-cede” words.

No one asked me this question. The copy or headline editor for the West Chester Daily Local News should have asked it.

There it was. Right in the headline: “Supercede.” An unforgivable spelling error right in the middle of the headline. I rubbed my hands in glee. Was I ever going to lambaste the editor of the Daily Local! Boy, I was going to give it to him. Why, the kids in my 9th-grade class knew that ONLY ONE word ends in “-SEDE” and that word is “superSEDE.” Only THREE words end in
“-CEED” and they are “PROceed,” “SUCceed” and “EXceed.” All the other “-CEDE” words end in “-CEDE” (except for the SEED that you plant in the ground): “intercede,” “secede,” “precede,” etc. [Excuse my not putting the quotation marks with the words, but the format won't let me.]

And then I got to thinking. I didn’t know that spelling “rule” until I read Harry Shefter’s Six Minutes a Day to Perfect Spelling. And that was when I was teaching my first ninth-grade class. I never learned it or knew it in grade school, high school or college. The editor had probably never been taught that spelling rule either. So I sat down and wrote a diplomatic letter to the editor, telling him the “–sede, -ceed, and –cede” “rule.” I began the letter by saying “You probably never knew this, but there is a rule about words ending in “–sede, -ceed and –cede.” I mailed the letter and didn’t think of it again until the phone rang on a Saturday night. Would you believe it? It was the editor of the Daily Local. He thanked me for the letter, admitted he did not know the rule and said that he appreciated my not blasting him for the mistake. Most people, he said, would have called me an idiot and other less printable words.

That's one reason I try to be tactful when correcting other people's English. I hope you, too, will be tactful when you find my inevitable mistakes. RayS.

Want to try another blog by RayS? On Teaching English:

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