We can all agree that English is a tough language to learn, especially when it is your second language. It is not very intuitive and it can often be very irregular and confusing. Nonetheless, English is the dominant language in many venues, regardless of the country. Now that you understand why English is important, I’ll be telling you the 10 most common spelling rules in English to help simplify learning or mastering the language. For more English spelling tips, check out our course on Spelling Rules.
English is the language most commonly found in international communication, business, science, IT, aviation, radio, diplomacy, and entertainment. For many people, the language is one that they will need to learn at some point or it is one that they will encounter. Check out the rules and exceptions below to see if it adds any clarity to your learning process.
Spelling Rules Redux: become a pro at spelling now.
I will be using terms such as “vowel,” “consonant,” and “suffix,” so I have provided a simple definition and example of each for your reference. A vowel would be any of the letters a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. A consonant makes up the remainder of the alphabet and can sometimes include the letter y. For example, the y in cry or candy is a vowel, but the y in yellow is a consonant. Finally, a suffix is placed after the stem of a word and alters the form of it. Some examples include -s, -ed, -t, -ing, -en, -s, -er, – est, and -,n’t. These may make the word plural, past tense, negative, or add emphasis.
Rule 1: “I” before “E,” except after C
Use i before e, except after c, or when sounded as “a” as in “neighbor” and “weigh.”
For example, believe, chief, piece, thief, deceive, receive. Some exceptions include height, neither, caffeine, foreign, weird, ancient, vein, sovereign, seize, counterfeit, forfeit, leisure, and either. If these letters and words seem unfamiliar to you, start from the beginning with our course on Elementary English.
Rule 2: Drop the last “E”
Drop the last e before a vowel suffix, but not before a consonant suffix. Take for example these combinations: ride + ing -> riding, drive + ing -> driving, hope + ing -> hoping. Now look at the following: like + ness -> likeness, arrange + ment -> arrangement. One common exception is the word noticeably.
Rule 3: Change the last “Y” to “I” before a suffix
Change the last y in a word to i if it comes before a suffix, unless the suffix starts with an i. Take a look at these samples: defy + ance -> defiance, party + es -> parties, pity + ful -> pitiful, try + es -> tries, try + ing -> trying, copy + ing -> copying, and occupy + ing -> occupying. A few common exceptions include memory -> memorize, fry -> fried, and journey -> journeying.
Rule 4: Double the final single consonant before adding a vowel suffix.
Double a final single consonant before a suffix that starts with a vowel where both of these conditions exist: 1) a single vowel precedes the consonant; and 2) the consonant ends an accented syllable or a one-syllable word. For example, stop + ing -> stopping, admit + ed -> admitted, occur + ence -> occurrence, stoop + ing -> stooping, benefit + ed -> benefited, delight + ful -> delightful.
Rule 5: The letter Q is always followed by the letter U
The letter q is always followed by the letter u, making the sound “kw.” Some common examples include queen, quiet, quit, and quilt.
Rule 6: Double the final consonant of a 2 syllable word ending in vowel and consonant
When a two-syllable word ends with a vowel and a consonant, double the final consonant when adding a vowel suffix, only if the accent is on the last syllable. For example, admit becomes admitted or admitting.
Rule 7: Double the letters L, F, and S, after a single vowel, at the end of a one-syllable word
Although it is not always the case, we generally double l, f, and s’ after a single vowel, at the end of a one-syllable word. For example, full, puff, and pass.
Rule 8: The letter S never follows the letter X
S never follows x. Look at the following: box becomes boxes, fox becomes foxes and fix becomes fixes.
Rule 9: If “All” is added in front of another syllable, drop an “L”
All is written with one l when added to another syllable. For example, always, almost, already, and also.
Rule 10: Similarly, if “Till” or “Full” are added to another syllable, drop an “L”
Till and full added to another syllable are written with one l. A couple of samples include the words until and fulfill.
Remember, if there’s a rule, there’s probably also an exception to that rule. That is one of the features of the language that makes it so difficult to learn. Additionally, there’s a large vocabulary, with many irregularities and complexities in pronunciation and spelling. Since Over the course of history, English has been made up of words from many different languages, from all over the world.
These are the foundational rules that will help you kickstart your English language development. Try not to get discouraged when you make mistakes during the learning process. There are many adults who have been born and raised in America that struggle to write the language with accuracy. Just keep in mind that the English language is constantly changing and growing, so stick to learning it and it will pay off two-fold in the end. After you’ve learned these rules, if you want to learn how to sound like an authentic American, check out our English Pronunciation course. For more advanced topics like grammar, take a look at the English Grammar Essentials.