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”.

  • e.g.
  • party – parties;
  • heavy – heaviness
  • marry – married;
  • funny – funnily
  • carry – carriage;
  • pretty – prettier
  • but;
  • 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.

Use “able”

  • 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.

Use “ible”

  • 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.