English spelling rules

Ten English spelling rules you should know

I am not crazy about maths, but rules and formulas make mastery easy! That is why we are providing you with English spelling rules. By creating patterns amongst words, you can learn the logic of English spelling rules. However, nothing is set in stone because the English language has words borrowed from other languages and is constantly adopting new ones. While this article cannot be considered the formula book for English spelling, it does provide you with basic rules to build from. Read on to learn ten Basic English spelling rules that will make mastering the language more accessible.

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10 Basic English spelling rules

1.     Add apostrophes where letters are removed

Contracted word forms pose a challenge for English learners. Knowing where to place an apostrophe is critical to spelling the word correctly. The rule is to place apostrophes in the spot where there is a missing letter(s). For example, the term “cannot” become “can’t.” The apostrophe replaces the missing “n,’ and “o.” English learners may sometimes make the mistake of adding the apostrophe after the last letter of the word, e.g., “cant’” which is wrong.

2.     End single syllabus words with double F’s and L’s

The spelling rule is that in words with single-syllable words that end with the consonants “F” or “L,” the consonants should be double. Some examples of those words include “still,” “cliff,” etc. however, there is an exception to this rule. When spelling words that end with a consonant blend, the “F” or “L’ should not be doubled. For example, scarf, whirl, etc

3.     Every syllable includes a vowel

Here’s a cheat code: every syllable of a word must include at least one vowel. This rule can be beneficial when spelling long words with multiple syllables. For single-syllable words, there is usually only one short vowel sound. When spelling words with several syllables, say the words aloud to identify each syllable, then compare with your spelling to ensure that you have written the right thing.

4.     I before E except after C (most of the time)

Belief or beleif? Receive or recieve? This is tricky. Even native speakers have a problem mastering the correct spelling for these words. It will help if you master the spelling rule, which says to place “I” before the letter “E” if the two vowels are next. However, if the preceding consonant is c, the rule is reversed; “E” comes before “I.”

5.     If a word ends in Y, keep all letters when adding a suffix

If the stem of the term you want to modify ends with a vowel and then a Y, add the suffix without changing the word. Words such as Jockey become “jockeying” in the present continuous tense and “jockeyed” in the past tense. Since the letter Y follows the vowel “e,” the word is not modified.

6.     Omit a silent E before adding a suffix

In American English, the English spelling rule omits the silent E before adding a suffix that begins with a vowel. Words such as “bake” become “baking” when this rule applies. However, this is not the same for British English. This formula does not apply to every situation. Below are exceptions:

  • The suffix Y is unique. You may need to memorize the spelling of particular words rather than using a rule. The term “shine” becomes “shiny,” but the word “dice” becomes “dicey.”
  • When adding the suffix –able, do not remove the silent E as “manageable.”
  • Words that end with double “e” are not modified before a suffix is added, e.g., “flee” becomes “fleeing.”

7.     S never follows X

People often confuse the “s” sound with the letter when spelling words like “excited.” The logic of the English rule is that S never follows X. to achieve the ‘s’ sound, the letter “C” is used. This is some bobby trap English learners seem to fall into. Well, not anymore!

8.     U always follows Q

You may be familiar with the words “queen,” “quite,” or “square.” What do you notice? U. always follows the letter Q; this is the rule in most cases. In such cases, the letter U is considered a vowel. While a few words do not follow this rule, they are hardly in use, and you may not run into them.

9.     Use –ck after a short vowel

Knowing when to use –ck and –k can be confusing for most English learners. They sound the same; how do we know the difference?! Here’s the rule; -ck follows a short vowel sound. For example: sick, quick, thick. A simple –k is used when the letter follows a long vowel sound or part of a consonant blend, as in peak or milk.

10. You can end 1-syllable words with two S’s

It is typical to have two S’s at the end of a one-syllable word, like pass, class, and bliss. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. By mastering the basics, you should know when to use what. The exceptions include the following:

  • ‘This’ is an exception, with only one S at the end of the word.
  • Words that have the /z/ sound are spelled with only one S at the end, e.g., was
  • Three letter words below have only one S at the end as in yes, gas, etc.
  • The plural forms of words that end with S do not take double S’s. for example, caps, hats, naps, etc
  • If the present tense takes an S at the end, the S is not doubled.

Conclusion

Let’s wrap up. Spelling is an integral part of mastering the written language, and knowing these basic rules sets you off to a good start. Remember that –ck follows short vowel sounds; use an apostrophe to replace missing letters from a word, and every syllable contains at least one vowel sound. All of this can be a lot to remember, so why not get a professional teacher to help you out. Book lessons with italki today!