The smallest single element in the English language is the letter. Each alphabet letter is a symbol called a “grapheme.”
There is a basic problem with the English spelling system. There are only twenty-six letters in English to represent about fifty sounds, or “phonemes.” A sound (phoneme) is not always spelled with the same letter of letters.
For example, look at the following words:
Each of these words begin with the same sound, but we have four different ways of spelling that sound. English is full of such confusing examples – on reason why spellings can be such a problem.
Suggestions For Improving Your Spelling
Sound out syllables carefully and individually.
- Pronounce words carefully
- affect – effect
- Calvary – cavalry
- carton – cartoon
- celery – salary
- diary – dairy
- elicit – illicit
- finally – finely
- marrying = marring
- shoulder – soldier
- shudder -shutter
Fix each letter of a word in your mind’s eye.
In each of the following pairs of words, notice the way the second word is different from the first:
- Accept – except
- Advice – advise
- Already – all ready
- Altogether – all together
- Beach – beech
- lose – loose
- past – passed
- personal – personnel
- precede – proceed
- principal -principle
- Breath – breathe
- Council – Counsel
- Desert – dessert
- Envelop – envelope
- Formally – formerly
- Its – it’s
- quiet – quite
- stationery – stationary
- than – then
- there – their – they’re
- to – two – too
- want – wont – won’t
Methods To Improve Spelling
- Use the dictionary whenever in doubt.
- List and study words you most frequently misspell.
- Look for helpful books on spelling by checking the library’s card catalog.
- Learn five basic spelling rules.
Five Basic Spelling Rules
Rule 1: The IE _ EI Rule.
A. When the -ie or -ei combination has and “ee sound, write i before e except after c.
B. When the -ei combination has a long “a” or long “i” sound, write e before I.
C. When the -ei combination is so slightly sounded as to be obscure (like the i in devil), write e before i.
Some exceptions to the -ei, ie rule:
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 source claim that current practice ignores this rule when the suffix able is added to a word ending in a slient -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
- beauty + ful = beautiful
- carry +es = ies
- carry + ing = carrying
- lovely + er = lovelier
- marry + ed = married
- dignify + ed = dignified
- dignify + ing + dignifying
- happy + er = happier
- happy + ness = happiness
- lucky + er = luckier
- 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 added to them.
- annoy + ance = annoyance
- annoy + ed = annoyed
- annoy + s = annoys
- betray + al = betrayal
- employ + er = employer
- buy +er = buyer
- buy + ing = buying
- buy + s = buys
- pay + able = payable
- stay + ed = stayed
Exceptions to the Final -Y Rule:
- baby + hood = babyhood
- busy + ness = business
- day + ly = daily
- gay + ly + gaily
- lay + ed = laid
- pay + ed = paid
- say + ed = said
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 the final syllable of the original word.
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;
(refér , but not prófit)
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 = occúrrence, but
- prefér + ence = reférence
- 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
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.
- Cáncel > cánceled cóunsel > cóunseled
- Envélop > envéloped márvel > márveled
- Prohíbit > prohíbited prófit > prófited
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