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Learning English: Spelling Rules

By: Sarah Folega - Updated: 24 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Spelling Rules Learn English Learning

Writing in English is a representation of the spoken language. Therefore, spelling is very important if you want to be able to clearly communicate with others. The importance in spelling and writing is clear – writing stays fixed, even as the spoken language adapts. So, English spelling can at times, seem totally illogical.

There are certain spelling rules that will help you with your spelling. However, it is important to remember that even the clearest rules have their exceptions.

Words Ending In Double L

When you come across words that end in double l and you are adding a prefix and/or a suffix, you will need to discard an ‘l’.

  • All + Most = Almost
  • Full + Fill = Fulfil
  • Well + Come = Welcome
  • Skill + Full = Skilful
  • Will + Full = Wilful

There is, of course, an exception to this rule. When combining the words hill and side, you actually leave the second ‘l’ – Hillside.

Short And Long Vowels

We define short and long vowels in words by the emphasis put on that vowel in the word. Short vowels have more emphasis on other letters, and long vowels have the emphasis on that particular vowel.

When words contain short vowels, they are usually followed by a double consonant:

  • Bitter
  • Holly
  • Dinner
  • Latter

However, words with long vowels will normally only have a single consonant:

  • Later
  • Dine
  • Holy

When you say the words out loud, you will notice the stress you put on the vowels in the words. This makes it easy for you to determine how to spell that particular word.

Words Ending In The Letter ‘E’

When adding to a particular word that ends in the letter ‘e’, keep the letter ‘e’ if you are following with a consonant. However, if you are following the letter ‘e’ with another vowel, it is common to lose the ‘e’.

Keep The ‘E’

  • Grace – Graceful
  • Live – Lively
  • Hope – Hopeful
  • Time – Timely

Lose The ‘E’

  • Take – Taking
  • Save – Saving
  • Fame – Famous
  • Love – Lovable/Loving

‘I’ Before ‘E’, Except After C

People often become confused with this English spelling rule. There seems to be some words that the rule applies to, and others where it doesn’t.

Here is an easy way to remember the words that the rule applies to and the words where the rule changes.

When sounded out, if the sound of the word is /ee/ then it is ‘I’ before ‘e’.

  • Siege
  • Field
  • Chief
  • Niece
  • Relieve
  • Thief

If the sound in the word is /e/ then the ‘e’ comes after the ‘c’.

  • Ceiling
  • Their
  • Perceive
  • Receive

Making Words That End In ‘F’, Plural

The majority of words that end in the letter ‘f’ become plural by adding the suffix ‘ves’. However, there are a few words that no do apply to this rule: Chiefs and roofs.

  • One Wolf – Two Wolves
  • One Shelf –Two Shelves

Making Words That End In ‘Y’, Plural

When words end in the letter ‘y’, and they have a vowel preceding it, just add the letter ‘s’.

  • One Boy – Two Boys
  • One Toy – Two Toys

However, when the word ends in a ‘y’ and has another consonant preceding it, you should change the ‘y’ to ‘ies’.

  • One Fairy – Two Fairies
  • One Baby – Two Babies
  • One Ability – Two Abilities

There are a lot more spelling rules within the English language, and learning them all may take some time. However, knowing just a few of the English spelling rules allows you to be confident in your spelling ability. A good quality English dictionary is a good tool to keep with you as you learn the English spelling rules.

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