Careful study of the matrix effect in ICP MS showed that, in all cases studied, the magnitude of the signal suppression or enhancement depends in a regular way on the mass number. Hence, accurate correction for non-spectral interferences is only possible using an internal standard with mass number close to that of the analyte element(s). It is also shown that using an internal standard with mass number close to that of the analyte improves the precision. For both cases, the ionization energy of the internal standard seems to be of no or only secondary importance. To obtain optimal precision and accuracy, the internal standard should be selected as close in mass number as possible to that of the analyte element(s). When a number of elements over a considerable mass range are to be determined, several internal standards have to be used.