Spelling Rules (It Really Does.)

WRITTEN November 1, 2019 Author: Rich Atkins

Spelling rules in English can be challenging and confusing. There are a few rules to follow as well as some important exceptions to remember. Read on for some of the rules and exceptions of spelling.

ie and ei

One way to remember the ie-ei rule is with this rhyme:​

i before e except after c
except when sounded like ay
​as in “neighbor” and “weigh.”

​​​

Examples:​

  • Receive
  • Believe
  • Grief​

​For common exceptions to this rule, remember:

Neither the feisty weird foreigner nor her beige neighbor seizes leisure or forfeits height during a heist.

Silent –e

Have you ever noticed how many words in the English language end in the letter ‘e’ where that “e”, even though it is never pronounced? The “e” is silent. Why is it there? Sometimes it is there to indicate pronunciation within the word, for a vowel: PIN vs PINE, or for a consonant: STAG vs STAGE.

Drop the silent -e if the ending begins with a vowel.​

write + ing = writing
love + able = lovable
use + age = usage

Keep the silent -e if the ending begins with a consonant.​

excite + ment = excitement
care + ful = careful
nine + ty = ninety
The –y ending

Change –y to –i and add ending if the –y follows a consonant (fly/flies).​

scurry + ed = scurried
sturdy + er = sturdier
costly + ness = costliness

Keep the –y when adding –ing.​

delay + ing = delaying
buy + ing = buying
hurry + ing = hurrying

Keep the –y if the –y follows a vowel.​

employ + ed = employed
play + ful = playful
delay + ed = delayed

Of course there are a lot of “rules” when you are writing, and who likes rules! The English language is really very irregular, so spelling rules may not apply in every exact instance, although there are definitely patterns that can be followed.

But there are a lot of tools out there to help you stay on track. The spell-check in programs like Microsoft Word can catch some spelling errors… but it won’t find ALL your mistakes!.  So among the tools you use, count on going back to the basics we give you today.  Pay attention to spellcheck but use the rules to check yourself too.


Register today for the next Improving Communications Business Grammar and Usage training class. If you’re looking for ways to improve your overall communication skills, register for one of our upcoming public classes in NYC.

Other Resources:

Silent E | Phonics Songs for Kids | Jack Hartmann (Video)

Five Spelling Rules for “Silent Final E”

Silent E (Wikipedia)

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