English Grammar Simple Spelling Guide

English Spelling!

I often apologise about the horrors of British spelling, but it's a fact: To speak English well, you need grammar. To write English well, you need grammar, punctuation and good spelling.
In Old England words were written as they sounded (phonetically) and so one word could often be spelt in many different ways. In addition English has adopted words from many other languages. Eventually spelling was standardised, and although many English words have irregular spellings there are some rules that can help you. Watch out though, for every rule there are always some exceptions! English has over 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 separate sounds, more than any other language.

How to Improve Your Spelling

  1. Keep a notebook of words you find difficult to spell. Underline the part of the word that you find most difficult.
  2. Use a dictionary, not a spell-checker! OK use a spell-checker, but don't rely on it. Spell-checkers don't check for meaning, the most common misspelt words I have seen on the net are there and their.
  3. Learn words with their possible prefixes and suffixes.
  4. Learn the rules, but don't rely on them. As I mentioned earlier for every rule there is at least one exception. For example:-
i before e except after c
One of the first English spelling rules learnt in most schools is "i before e except after c". This only works when the pronunciation of the word is like a long ee as in shield.
For example:-
piece, relief, niece, priest, thief
but after c
conceive, conceit, receive, receipt
when A or I is the sound
it's the other way round
with an 'a' sound - deign, eight, neighbour, feign, reign, vein, weight
with an 'i' sound either, feisty, height, neither, sleight
seize, weird, conscientious, conscience, efficient . . .

Silent Letters

What is a silent letter?
A silent letter is a letter that must be included when you write the word even though you don't pronounce it. Over half the alphabet can appear as silent letters in words. They can be found at the beginning, end or middle of the words and, from the sound of the word, you wouldn't know that they were there.
For example:-
a - treadle, bread
b - lamb, bomb, comb
c - scissors, science, scent
d - edge, bridge, ledge
e - see below
h - honour, honest, school
k - know, knight, knowledge
l - talk, psalm, should
n - hymn, autumn, column
p - pneumatic, psalm, psychology
s - isle, island, aisle
t - listen, rustle, shistle
u - biscuit, guess, guitar
w - write, wrong, wrist
Silent e

Silent e is the most commonly found silent letter in the alphabet.
There are some hard and fast rules for spelling when a word ends with a silent e.
When you wish to add a suffix to a word and it ends with a silent e, if the suffix begins with a consonant you don't need to change the stem of the word.

For example:
force + ful =forceful
manage + ment =management
sincere + ly =sincerely

If however the suffix begins with a vowel or a y, drop the e before adding the suffix.
For example:
fame + ous =famous
nerve + ous =nervous
believable + y =believably
criticise + ism =criticism

mileage, aggreeable

Prefixes and Suffixes

Adding a prefix to a word doesn't usually change the spelling of the stem of the word.
For example:-
anti + septic antiseptic
auto + biography autobiography
de - sensitize desensitize
dis - approve disapprove
im - possible impossible
inter - mediate intermediate
mega - byte megabyte
mis - take mistake
micro - chip microchip
re - used reused
un - available unavailable
Adding a suffix to a word often changes the spelling of the stem of the word. The following may help you work out the changes. Again there are exceptions, so if you're not sure - look it up in your dictionary.
Words ending in a consonant
When the suffix begins with a consonant, just add the ending without any changes.
For example:-
treat + ment treatment
Doubling the consonant
For most words with a short vowel sound, ending with a single consonant, double the consonant when adding a suffix that starts with a vowel, such as er, ed or ing.
For example:-
mop + ing mopping
big + est biggest
hot + er hotter
For words endling in l after a vowel, double the l before adding er, ed or ing.
For example:-
carol + ing carolling
travel + er travelling
Some words ending in r, x, w or y are exceptions to the doubling rule
tear + ing tearing
blow + ing blowing
box + er boxer
know + ing knowing

And if your main word has two consonants at the end, or more than one vowel, don't double the consonant.
rain + ing (two vowels a + i) raining
keep + er (two vowels e + e) keeper
break + ing (two vowels e + a) breaking
hang + er (two consonants n + g) hanger

Word Endings

Words ending in ce and ge
When you want to add a suffix starting with a or o leave the e in.
For example:-
manage + able manageable
notice + able noticeable
courage + ous courageous
prestige + ous prestigious
Words ending in ie
When you want to add ing to verbs ending in ie, drop the e and change the i to a y.
For example:-
die - dying
lie - lying
tie - tying
Words ending in y after a consonant
When you want to add suffixes such -as, -ed, -es, -er, -eth, -ly, -ness, -ful and -ous to a word ending in y after a consonant, change the y to an i before adding the suffix.
For example:-
eighty + eth eightieth
duty + es duties
lazy + ness laziness
mystery +ous mysterious
beauty + ful beautiful
multiply + ed multiplied
busy + ly busily
Words ending in y after a vowel
Keep the y when adding suffixes such as er, ing or ed.
For example:-
destroy destroying destroyed
pry prying pried
buy buying buyer
play playing player

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