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 Five Basic Spelling Rules

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PostSubject: Five Basic Spelling Rules   Tue Aug 12, 2014 4:12 pm

Five Basic Spelling Rules


Rule 1: The IE – EI Rule.

A. When the –ie or –ei combination has an “ee” sound, write i before e except after c.
achieve - ceiling
believe - conceit
cashier - conceive
chandelier - deceit  
hygiene - perceive
handkerchief - receive
reprieve - receipt

B. When the –ei combination has a long “a” or long “i” sound, write e before i.
Eight - reign
Feint - rein
Freight - sleigh
Neighbor - sleight
Height - stein
Veil - weight

C. When the –ei combination is so slightly sounded as to be obscure (like the i in devil), write e before i.
Forfeit – foreign - sovereignty
Surfeit – sovereign - counterfeit
Some exceptions to the –ei, -ie rule:
Caffeine - leisure
Codeine - neither
Either - seize
Financier - protein
Fiery - weird


Rule 2: The Silent Final –E Rule.

A. Drop the silent final –e when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel.
advise + ing = advising
amuse + ing = amusing
argue + ing = arguing
arrive + al = arrival
believe + able = believable*
come + ing = coming
ice + y = icy
imaging + ative = imaginative

* Possible exceptions for the suffix able:  Some sources claim that current practice ignores this rule when the suffix able is added to a word ending in a silent –e.  these sources maintain that either spelling is correct.  Some words, however, like noticeable, peaceable, and serviceable always retain the –e¬ in order to retain the soft sound of c.

* In English, y is frequently considered a vowel.

B. Keep the final silent –e¬ when adding a suffix beginning with a consonant.
Amuse + ment = amusement
bare + ly = barely
care + ful = careful
safe + ty = safety
whole + some = wholesome


Rule 3: The Final –Y Rule

A. Words ending in –y preceded by a consonant (such as dignify) usually change y to i before any suffix except one beginning with i (such as dignifying).
angry + ly = angrily
dignify + ed = dignified
beauty + ful = beautiful
dignify + ing = dignifying
carry + es = carries
happy + er = happier
carry + ing = carrying
happy + ness = happiness
lovely + er = lovelier
lucky + er = luckier
marry + ed = married
luck + ly = luckily

B. Words ending in –y preceded by a vowel (such as annoy) usually change y to i before other endings that might be added to them.
annoy + ance = annoyance
buy + er = buyer
annoy + ed = annoyed
buy + ing = buying
annoy + s = annoys
buy + s = buys
betray + al = betrayal
pay + able = payable
employ + er = employer
stay + ed = stayed

Exceptions to the Final –Y Rule:
baby + hood = babyhood
lay + ed = laid
busy + ness = business
pay + ed = paid
day + ly = daily
say + ed = said
gay + ly = gaily


Rule 4:  Doubling the Final Consonant Rule

IF a word
• ends in a single consonant,
• preceded by a single vowel,
• and is accented on the final syllable,
double this consonant when adding a suffix that starts with a vowel,

• SO LONG AS the accent remains on what was the final syllable of the original word.
compel - compelling - compelled
refer - referring - referred
commit - committing - committed

If you go back and re-read Rule 4, you’ll notice that it still (even after these examples) does not make a great deal of sense.  Let’s break the rule down into five conditions that a word must satisfy before you can apply the rule.

Condition 1: IF a word ends in a single consonant: (refer, but not resist)

Condition 2: Preceded by a single vowel: (refer, but not appear)

Condition 3: And is accented on the last syllable: (refer , but not profit)

Condition 4: Double this consonant when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel: allot + ed = allotted, but allot + ment = allotment because the ment suffix begins with a consonant.

Condition 5: So long as the accent remains on what was the final syllable of the original word: occur + ence = occurrence, but refér + ence = reference
occur + ed = occurred
confer + ed = conferred
annul + ed = annulled
expel + ed = expelled
commit + ed = committed
regret + ed = regretted
compel + ed = compelled

In qu combinations, the u is pronounced as a w.  therefore, only the i functions as a true vowel:
acquit + ed = acquitted
equip + ed = equipped

Also note:

A. All one-syllable words ending in a single consonant always double the consonant when a suffix beginning in a vowel is added.
beg > beggar  
bug > buggy
bid > bidding  
get > getting
hop > hopping  
plan > planning
quiz > quizzes  
sob > sobbed

B. Words with more than one syllable that do not have the accent on the last syllable do not double the final consonant.
Cancel > canceled  
counsel > counseled
Envelop > enveloped  
marvel > marveled
Prohibit > prohibited  
profit > profited

C. The final consonant is never doubled if a suffix beginning with a consonant is added.
annul > annulment  
commit > commitment
defer > deferment  
equip > equipment

Rule 5: The “One-Plus-One” Rule

A. Include both letters when adding a prefix that ends in the same letter with which the word begins.
un + necessary = unnecessary
dis + satisfied = dissatisfied
ir = responsible = irresponsible
mis + spell = misspell

B. Include both letters when adding a suffix that begins with the same consonant as that with which the word ends.
accidental + ly = accidentally
mean + ness = meanness
drunken + ness = drunkenness
sudden + ness = suddenness

C. Include both letters when two words are combined, the first of which ends in the same letter as that with which the second word begins.
bath + house = bathhouse
news + stand = newsstand
book + keeping = bookkeeping
over + ride = override
room + mate = roommate
with + hold = withhold

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