Every time I spell "unnecessary", I struggle to remember whether there are 1 or 2 n's, 1 or 2 c's, and 1 or 2 s's. Anybody have any strategies for remembering how to spell this word?

  • 5
    "one coffee, two sugars" - necessary - and then put an 'un' in front. Jun 21, 2017 at 16:38
  • 3
    This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center. It is asking for a spelling aide-memoire, not discussing a point of usage. Jun 21, 2017 at 22:08
  • 2, 1, 2 = 2 Ns, 1 C, 2 Ss
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 22, 2017 at 0:00
  • Use a spell checker, if that's your only problem. At school I learned to use a slide rule. That's not much use any more either.
    – David
    Jun 22, 2017 at 20:29
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    I [humbly] vote for reopening this question as 1) spelling is on-topic, and 2) along with mnemonics, the question accepts answers explaining why the word has such spelling too, therefore detailed explanations are welcome. I added the edit for the title that could improve it by making it less narrow toward mnemonics-related answers.
    – pkuderov
    May 14, 2021 at 18:28

4 Answers 4


Here are mnemonics for the spelling of this word based on general English spelling patterns.

The word "unnecessary" is obviously composed of the prefix "un-" combined with the word "necessary". Each of these is spelled with an "n": combined, this makes two "n"s. This is a general pattern: for words prefixed with "un-", the "n" is not dropped, even if it is followed by another "n", e.g. "unnatural," "unnamed", "unnerving".

The word "necessary" is pronounced with two /s/ sounds. It is very rare for an /s/ sound to be represented by a double "cc": normally, that sequence of letters corresponds to the consonant cluster /ks/ (as in "success", "access", "accent", "eccentric") or simply the consonant sound /k/ (as in "accommodate", "succo(u)r", "soccer"). If we ignore words with Italian spellings, the only word spelled with "cc" that is commonly pronounced with no /k/ sound is "flaccid," and that's an irregularity (the regular pronunciation with /ks/ also exists, and some people prefer it).

If you can remember that "necessary" is not spelled irregularly, then you know that it isn't spelled with "cc" because there's no /k/ in the pronunciation, and since you know there's a double consonant in there somewhere, it must be spelled with "ss".


Unnecessary means 'not necessary' (2 n's), I 'C' (see, i.e. one 'c'), so sue me (2 s's).


A mnemonic is something you can remember and as such is personal in nature, but since there are two "n" and two "s," then you can say that "two Ns are unnecessary."

This can be construed as meaning the opposite, but does that really matter?

  • I was once told that "two 'c's are not necessary". That'll do for the number of 'c's.
    – BoldBen
    May 14, 2021 at 22:09

I don't have a mnemonic for unnecessary, but I do have one for necessary:

Never Eat Cucumber, Eat Salmon Sandwiches And Remain Youthful.

There are other similar mnemonics for necessary apparently.

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