English spelling rules
“q” is always written as “qu”. It never stands by itself.
- e.g. quick, queen, quarrel.
We double “l, f, and s” after a single short vowel at the end of a word.
- e.g. call, tall, toss, miss, stiff, stuff.
- Exceptions: us, bus, gas, if, of, this, yes, plus, nil, pal.
Regular plurals are made by adding “s”.
- e.g. animals, horses, monkeys, and cliffs.
The sound of “ee” on the end of a word is nearly always “y”.
- Exceptions: committee and coffee.
“y” and not “i” is used at the end of an English word and is usually pronounced as a short “i”.
- Exceptions: macaroni, spaghetti, vermicelli (Italian), and taxi (short for taxicab).
A silent “e” on the end of a word makes the vowel in front say its own alphabetic name.
- e.g. hate, ride, cube, bake, shire, mare, lobe.
- Exceptions: done, come, some, give and have.
“ck” may only be used after a single vowel that does not say its name at the end of a syllable or root word.
- e.g. track, pick, rocket, wreckage.
To form plurals of words with a hissing ending, add “es”.
- i.e.after “s, x, z, sh, and ch”.
- e.g. buses, foxes, buzzes, wishes and churches.
Words ending in an “o” preceded by a consonant usually add “es” to form the plural.
- e.g. potatoes, volcanoes.
- Exceptions: pianos, solos, Eskimos
Nouns ending in a single “f” change the “f” to a “v” before adding “es” to form the plural.
- e.g. leaf – leaves; wolf – wolves.
- Exceptions: dwarfs, roofs, chiefs.
If a word ends in a consonant plus “y”, change the “y” to and “i”, before adding any ending. Except: “ing”.
- party – parties;
- heavy – heaviness
- marry – married;
- funny – funnily
- carry – carriage;
- pretty – prettier
- cry – crying;
- hurry – hurrying
When “w” comes before “or” it often says “wer” as “worm”.
- e.g. worship, worst, worth, work.
- Exceptions: worry, worried, wore.
Words ending in both a single vowel and a single consonant always double the last consonant before adding an ending.
- e.g. stop, stopped, stopping.
- flat, flatter, flattest.
- swim, swimmer, swimming.
- Exceptions: fix, box, fox, mix.
- “x” is the same as “ck”; that is it counts as a double consonant ending.
When “c” is followed by “e”, “i” or “y”, it says “s”. Otherwise it says “k”.
- e.g. centre, ceiling, circle, cycle.
- cottage, cave, cream, curious, clever.
When “g” is followed by “i”, “e” or “y”, it says “j”. Otherwise it says “g” as in gold.
- e.g. gentle, giant, gymnastic.
- gallon, gold, guide, glass, grow.
- Exceptions: get, got, begin, girl, give, gear, geese, gift, girth, geyser, giddy.
Drop the final “e” from a root word before adding an ending beginning with a vowel, but keep it before a consonant.
- e.g. love, loving, lovely.
- drive, driving, driver.
- settle, settled, settling.
- grace, graceful.
“ti”, “ci” and “si” are three spellings most frequently used to say “sh” at the beginning of all syllables except the first.
- e.g. national, patient, palatial, infectious.
- gracious, ancient, musician, fiancial. session, admission, mansion, division.
- Exceptions: “ship” as a suffix, e.g. “worship”.
“i” comes before “e” when it is pronounced “ee”, except when it follows “c” – or when sounding like “a” as in “neighbour, or weigh”.
- e.g. brief, field, priest.
- receive, deceive, ceiling.
- Exceptions: neither, foreign, sovereign, seized, counterfeit, forfeited, leisure.
“all” and “well” followed by another syllable only have one “l”.
- e.g. also, already, although, welcome, welfare.
“full” and “till” joined to another root syllable, drop one “l”.
- e.g. useful, cheerful, until.
For words ending in a single “l” after a single vowel, double the “l” before adding a suffix, regardless of accent.
- e.g. cancelled, traveller, signalling, metallic.
If a word of more than one syllable ends in a “t”, preceded by a single vowel, and has the accent on the last syllable, then double the final consonant.
- e.g. permit; permitted.
- admit; admitted.
- regret; regretted.
- But, if the accent is on the first syllable, don’t double the “t”.
- e.g. visit; visited.
- benefit; benefited
“ous” at the end of a word often means “full of”.
- e.g. famous: full of fame.
- glorious; full of glory.
- gracious, ridiculous, furious, dangerous.
“al” at the end of a word often means “to do with”.
- e.g. musical:to do with music.
- criminal:to do with crime.
- historical:to do with history.
“er” or “or” endings. The most common everyday words end in “er”.
- e.g. baker, painter, teacher.
- If in doubt, use “or”, when the meaning of the word is “one who” or “that which”.
- e.g. author, director, instructor, indicator, conveyor, escalator.
“ery” or “ary” endings. Words ending in “ery” are often obvious.
- e.g. very, brewery, flattery, bakery, nursery.
- If in doubt, use “ary”.
- e.g. dictionary, secretary, commentary, stationary.
- Seven words ending in “ery” that might cause trouble.
- e.g. distillery, confectionery, millinery, cemetery, dysentery, monastery, stationery (paper).
“ise”, “ize” or “yse” endings. Most of these words end in “ise”.
- e.g. sunrise, surprise, supervise, exercise, disguise, unwise, surmise, advertise.
- Only two common words end in “yse”.
- i.e. analyse and paralyse.
- Only two common words end in “ize”.
- i.e. prize and capsize.
“ceed”, “sede” and “cede”.
- Three “ceed” words; succeed, exceed, proceed.
- One “sede” word; supersede.
- All others “cede”
- e.g.intercede, antecede, precede.
“able” or “ible” endings.
- After root words.
- e.g. available, dependable.
- After root words ending in “e”.
- e.g. desirable, believable, usable (drop the “e”).
- After “i”.
- e.g. reliable, sociable.
- When other forms of the root word have a dominant “a” vowel.
- e.g. irritable, durable, abominable.
- After a hard “c” or “g”.
- e.g. educable, practicable, navigable.
- Exceptions: formidable, inevitable, memorable, probable, portable, indomitable, insuperable.
- After non-root words.
- e.g. audible, horrible, possible.
- When the root has an immediate “ion”form.
- e.g. digestible, suggestible, convertible.
- After a root ending in “ns” or “miss”.
- e.g. responsible, comprehensible, permissible.
- After a soft “c” or “g”.
- e.g. legible, negligible, forcible, invincible.
- Exceptions: contemptible, resistible, collapsible, flexible.