English spelling rules

Workbooks and games for the first six of the nine categories of English spelling rules below are currently available. The others are in preparation.

English Spelling Rules Section 1 Word endings

• No English word ends in ’v’ except spiv. Use ve instead.

• No English word ends in ’j’. Use ge or dge instead.

• No English word ends in ‘i’. Use y instead. Exceptions: macaroni, spaghetti, vermicelli (Italian) and taxi (short for taxicab)

• The word endings ‘dge’, ‘tch’, may only be used after a short vowel e.g. badge, hedge, lodge, fetch, Dutch, catch. Exceptions to this rule are: much, such, rich, which.

• We double ‘l’, ‘f’, ‘s’ and ‘z’, after a single vowel at the end of a short word.e.g. call, tell, toss, miss, stiff, stuff, fizz, jazz.Exceptions to this spelling rule: us, bus, gas, if, of, this, yes, plus, nil, pal.

Two-syllable words that end with s.

Many words that end with s have the stress on the first syllable, e.g, crisis, bonus, crocus, circus, litmus and fungus .... These follow the rule - only use one s at the end of the word.

If the stress is on the final syllable of a disyllabic word, the final s IS doubled, e.g. address, redress, discuss, unless, dismiss, undress, remiss, amiss, recall, rebuff. Also, the letters re, dis and un in the examples above are prefixes, and the rule when adding these prefixes is to keep the base word the same and just add the prefix.

Two-syllable words that end with l.

With regard to final l, and final f, the rule concerning prefixes applies, e.g. refill, recall, rebuff.

In words where there is no prefix, the question of where the stress lies does not apply. Fulfil and until have the stress on the final syllable and many words, e.g. pistol, petrol, petal, metal, lintel, lentil and pencil have the stress on the first syllable.

The letters ‘ck’ are used at the end of one-syllable base words that have a single short vowel, e.g, sack, stick, clock.

Use only a single letter c at the end of words like picnic, cubic, metric and arithmetic.

English Spelling Rules Section 2 Making plurals

• Regular plurals are made by adding ‘s’. e.g. dogs, horses, monkeys, cliffs.

• To form plurals of words with a hissing ending, add ‘es’. Use suffix ‘es’ after s, x, z, sh, ch, ss in words like bonuses, boxes, fizzes, wishes, churches and misses.

• To make nouns ending in a single ‘f’ plural change the ‘f’ to ‘v’ before adding ‘es’ to form the plural. e. g. loaf, loaves; wolf, wolves, shelf, shelves. Exceptions to this rule: dwarfs, roofs, chiefs.

• Words ending in an ‘o’ preceded by a consonant usually end in suffix ‘es’ to form the plural e.g. potato-es, volcano-es, torpedo-es.Some exceptions: pianos, solos, Eskimos.

English Spelling Rules Section 3 Adding suffixes

• Short words ending in both a single vowel and a single consonant always double the last consonant before adding a suffix (ending) beginning with a vowel. e.g. hop, hopped, hopping; flat, flatter, flatten; win, winner, winning; bit, bitty, bitten . We sometimes refer to these base words as 1,1,1 words because they have ONE vowel, ONE consonant after the vowel, and ONE syllable.Examples of vowel suffixes are: ed, es, ing, en, y, al, able and ible.

• Do NOT double the final consonant when the base word has two vowels or two final consonants, e.g. leaf, leafy; shout, shouting; fool, foolish; self, selfish; mend, mending.

• Drop the final ’e’ from a root word before adding a suffix beginning with a vowel, but keep it before a consonant suffix.• e.g. love, loving, lovely; taste, tasting, tasty; ride, bubble, bubbling, bubbly: drive, driving, driver; rattle, rattled, rattling.

• ‘Ful’ is a suffix added onto the end of a root (or base) word. It has only one ‘l’. e.g. hopeful, useful, cheerful. Because this suffix begins with a consonant, just add it to the base (root) word, without changing the root word. Notice that we keep the silent e in ‘hopeful’ and ‘useful’ above.

• Other consonant suffixes follow the same rule as above. They include ‘ment’, ‘ly’, ty, ‘ness’, ‘less’. They are used to make words like statement, lonely, cruelty, lateness and homeless. Remember to keep the final e of thee base word in word spellings like this.

• If a word ends in a consonant plus ‘y’, change the ‘y’ to ‘i’ before adding any suffix except ‘ing’.• e.g. lady, ladies; party, parties; heavy, heavier, heaviest; marry, married; funny, funnily; but there are some exceptions, e.g. cry, crying; hurry, hurrying.

• If a base word ends with the letters oy, ay, or ey, DO NOT change the final y to i when adding any vowel suffix, e.g. annoying, played, displayed, surveyed, boyish. Exceptions to this are the words said, paid and laid.

English Spelling Rules Section 4 Adding prefixes

• The letters ‘al’ are a prefix, followed by another syllable, in words like also, already, always, although. Although the word ‘all’ has two lls, the prefix ‘al’ has only one l.

• Other prefixes are: re, pre, de, in, im, un, en, under, over, dis, and mis, as in rethink, preset, deactivate, incapable, impossible, undecided, enslave, underachieve, overcook, discontinue and misdeed.

English Spelling Rules Section 5 Using ‘soft’ c and ‘soft’ g

• When ‘c’ is followed by ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y’, it says ‘s’. Otherwise it says ‘k’. e.g. city, centre, ceiling, circle, cycle, receive, access.

• When ‘g’ is followed by ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y’ it says ‘j’. Otherwise it says ‘g’ as in gold e.g. gentle, giant, gymnastic, gyroscope.Exceptions: get, begin, girl, give, gear, geese, gift, girth.

English Spelling Rules Section 6 Rules for using w and qu

• When ‘w’ or ‘qu’ comes before ‘a’ it often says (wo) or (kwa) as in wash, want, wander, wallet, quarrel and quads.

• When ‘w’ comes before ‘or’ it often says (wer) as in worm, word, work, worth, worship. Exceptions include worry, worried, wore, worn.

• When ‘w’ or ‘qu’ come before ‘ar’, it often says (wor) or (quor) as in war, ward, warden, quarter, quart,

• The sound (kw) is written as ‘qu’. It never stands by itself. The letter u is a “silent” partner. It is not a “sounded vowel” when used after the letter q.

English Spelling Rules Section 7 Using i and e together to make one sound

• ‘i’ comes before ‘e’ when it is pronounced ‘ee’, except when it follows ’c’, e.g. brief, field, priest, receive, deceive, ceiling.

• ‘e’ comes before ‘i’ when sounded like (ay) as in neighbour and weigh.

The letters i and e are sometimes used together and sounded as separate vowels, e.g. in diet, quiet and client. Further information on teaching syllable division will be added soon.

English Spelling Rules Section 8 Using ti, ci or si to make the sound (sh)

• ‘ti’, ‘ci’, ‘si’, are three spellings most frequently used to say ‘sh’ at the beginning of all syllables except the first.• e.g. nation, patient, torrential, infectious, spacious, ancient, optician, financial, tension, session, admission, pension, division.

English Spelling Rules Section 9 Doubling l and t in multisyllabic words before suffixes

• In words ending in a single ‘l’ after a single vowel, double the ‘l’ before adding a suffix regardless of accent.• e.g. cancelled, levelling, travelled, signalling, metallic.

• If a word of more than one syllable ends in a ‘t’, preceded by a single vowel, and has the accent (stress) on the last syllable, double the final consonant.• e.g. permit, permitted; admit, admitted; regret, regretted; but do not double the final t in words like visit, visited; benefit, benefited because the stress is on the first syllable of the root or base word.

English spelling rules are incorporated in the phonic progression on this site. They vary from American spelling rules, especially in the use of double consonants in multisyllabic words.