Spelling Rules

Why is Correct Spelling Important?

Writing the correct spelling is very important for a student. A wrong spelling doesn’t put good impression on the examiner and is understood as carelessness or inefficiency of the student. It is therefore very important for you to know and write correct spellings in your exams, essays etc. There are certain rules, which could improve your spelling power and boost up your confidence.

How to Avoid Spelling Mistakes?

Before we go onto the set of rules; I would like to mention few habits that you must develop to improve your word power and minimize the mistakes. They are as following-

1) Read Carefully

Generally while reading a newspaper or a book, many of us just try to go through the complete sentence, not stressing much on the words. Just for instance, may I ask you to read the below sentence written within quotation marks-

“I celebrated by birth day with colleaegues”.

There is a good chance that you would probably read it right. Did you notice any mistake!?

The “colleagues” is spelled wrongly as “colleaegues”.

The point is that you must read the sentence carefully, quickly going through the spellings of complicated words and also memorizing them.

2) Keep a Dictionary

Always keep a dictionary with you. A dictionary is your best 24 hours ‘Spelling Teacher’. You will feel confident and it will also improve your vocabulary.

3) Make a Note

It is a good habit to make a note of the complicated or difficult spellings that you come across. You can refer to your personal note time-to-time and also memorize the spellings whenever you want.

4) Pronounce Correctly

Many spelling mistakes occur due to wrong pronunciation. If you pronounce a word incorrectly, the chances are fair that you will also spell it incorrectly. Words like - brewery, penguin, jewellery, spaghetti, squirrel, drawer, choir, Antarctic could be a bit tricky to pronounce.

What is Spelling Rules

There are certain rules for different types of spellings, which we will discuss in details below. You are expected to thoroughly go through the rules and practice the words. But, before that we quickly go through some basic information, we already know-

  1. i) Vowels: a, e, i, o, u
  2. ii) Consonants: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z

iii) Suffix: suffix is a group of letters which is added at the end of a word. For example consider the words-

WORD SUFFIX WORD + SUFFIX
beauty ful beautiful
move ment movement
bad ly badly
kind ness kindness
pass age passage


(A) Doubling of “l

 Rule 1:

Many words end with double ‘l’ -“ll”. But when Compound words are made of them, then one ‘l’ is omitted. Go through the words in the table below and their compound forms.

WORD 1 WORD 2 COMPOUND WORD (1 + 2)
doubt full doubtful
all ways always
all though although
full fill fulfil
well come welcome
skill full skillful
en roll enrol

One ‘l’ is omitted from the words while making compound words.

Though, there are some exceptions to this rule like- farewell, spellbound, unroll etc.

Rule 2:

If a word ends with ‘l’ and if the ‘l’ is immediately following a vowel, like in the words – beautiful, equal, expel, jewel, travel, level, cancel and model. Before compounding such words with other words or suffix, beginning with a vowel – one more “l” is added. We will better understand the concept with examples-

WORD SUFFIX (Beginning with a Vowel) COMPOUND WORDS WITH “ll”
quarrel ed quarrelled
quarrel ing quarrelling
expel ing expelling
expel ed expelled
travel ing travelling
travel ed travelled
cancel ed cancelled

The words in the examples end with “ l ” and the “ l ” is placed after a vowel. Therefore, when the word is compounded with a suffix beginning with a vowel - one more “l” is added.

There are a few exceptions to this rule too – parallel, paralleled, peril, perilous.

(B) Doubling Consonants

Rule 3:

Some words end with a consonant and the consonant follows a vowel. While adding such words with suffixes beginning with a vowel; the consonant is doubled. Go through the examples give in the table below-

WORDS (ending with – vowel + consonant) SUFFIX (beginning with vowel) COMPOUND WORDS
get ing getting
bet ing betting
plan ing planning
drop ed dropped
commit ed committed
run ing running
prefer ed preferred
refer ed referred
worship ing worshipping
offer ed offered

Few exceptions include- picnic – picnicking; suffer – suffered; offer – offered; differ – differed.

(C) Spelling: the final y and i

Rule 4:

If a word end with “y”, and if the “y” is following a consonant; then before adding a suffix to such words (except – ing), the “y” is replaced by “i”. go through the examples in the below table-

WORD (ending with – consonant + y) SUFFIX COMPOUND (WORD + SUFFIX)
cry ing crying (no change)
cry ed cried ( y replaced by ‘i’)
happy ly happily
happy er happier
try ing trying (no change)
try ed tried
mercy full merciful
pity full pitiful
busy ness business

It is seen that while suffixing with – ing, the word remains same, while on suffixing with others, the “y” is replaced by “i”.

Rule 5:

If the “y” is following a vowel, then it is not changed to “i” while adding a suffix. Go through the examples in the tables below-

WORDS (‘y’ is following a vowel) SUFFIX COMPOUND WORDS
play ed played
buy ing buying
buy er buyer
pay ment payment
betray ed betrayed
gray ing graying
stay ed stayed
enjoy ed enjoyed
obey ed obeyed
journey ed journeyed

In the above examples the “y” in the words is preceded by a vowel; therefore, the “y” remains the same and the suffix is added without change.

Though, there are few exceptions to this rule – say – said; pay – paid; lay – laid etc.

Rule 6:

Rule number six relates to making plurals or third person singular in simple present tense.

(i) For third person singular in simple present tense.

If “y” is following by a consonant then it is replaced by – ‘ies’ as shown in the table below-

WORD (‘y’ following a consonant) SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE (THIRD PERSON)
study studies
cry cries
fly flies
try tries
copy copies

Some more examples – carry – carries; hurry – hurries; reply – replies; worry – worries

(ii) For making plural

For making plurals -  if “y” is following by a vowel, then only “s” is added but if the “y” is following a consonant – it is replaced by ‘ies’ as shown in table below-

SINGULAR WORD PLURAL WORD
spy spies
boy boys
supply supplies
story stories
toy toys

Some more Examples – victory – victories, baby – babies, key – keys, donkey – donkeys etc.

(D) Spelling: Words Ending With “e”

Rule 7:

If a suffix beginning with a vowel is added to a word ending with “e”, then the “e” is omitted. Go through the examples in the table below-

WORD (Ending With “e”) SUFFIX (Beginning With Vowel) COMPOUND – WORD + SUFFIX
live ing Living (“e” is omitted)
dive ing diving
value able valuable
come ing coming
blame ing blaming
note ing noting
create ing creating
type ing typing
fame ous famous
make ing making

Note that in the above words, “e” is omitted while joining with a suffix beginning with a vowel.

Rule 8:

If a word ends with –ge or –ce then the suffix is added to the word as it is. Go through the examples below-

WORD (Ending With –ge or –ce) SUFFIX COMPOUND WORD
change able changeable
service able serviceable
manage able manageable
advantage ous advantageous
courage ous courageous

However the above rule changes (“e” is omitted) for the suffixes beginning with –“e” or “i” as shown in the examples below-

WORD (Ending With –ge or –ce) SUFFIX (Starting With “e” or “i”) COMPOUND WORD
change ing changing
service ing servicing
manage ing managing
replace ing replacing
notice ing noticing

Rule 9:

If a word ending with ‘-ee’, ‘-le’ or ‘-ye’, is added to any suffix (except –ed), then the final “e” remains the same. Got through the below examples-

WORD PREFIX COMPOUND WORD
see ing Seeing
free ing freeing
sale able saleable
role able roleable
eye ing eyeing
agree Ing agreeing
dye ing dyeing
guarantee ing guaranteeing
agree able agreeable
flee ing fleeing

There are also some exceptions to this rule like - smile – smiling, compile – compiling, profile – profiling etc.

Rule 10:

If the words ending with ‘e’ are suffixed with a word beginning with a consonant; then the last ‘e’ of the word is omitted. Go through the below examples.

WORD (Ending With ‘e’) SUFFIX (beginning with a consonant) COMPOUND WORD
argue ment argument
due ly duly
whole ly wholly
true ly truly
awe full awful
simple ly simply
nurse ing nursing

There are few exceptions to rule 10, like – achieve – achievement (‘e’ is not omitted), hope – hopeful, excite – excitement.

Rule 11:

For words ending with ‘ie’ when suffixed with –ing; ‘ie’ is replaced by ‘y’.

WORDS (ending with ‘ie’) SUFFIX (-ing) COMPOUND WORDS
die ing dying
lie ing lying
tie ing tying
vie ing vying

The ‘ie’ of the words is replaced by the ‘y’ before adding to the suffix.

Rule 12:

Some words end with –‘our’ like – favour, labour etc. In British English ‘u’ is accepted while it is omitted in American English. Go through the table below-

BRITISH ENGLISH AMERICAN ENGLISH
favour favor
labour labor
colour color
neighbour neighbor
favourite favorite
rumour rumor
behaviour behavior

(E) Spelling: Words Ending With ‘-ise’ and ‘-ize’

Rule 13:

Some words in British English ending with –ise, can very well end with –ize also. Refer to the table below-

WORDS (ending with –ise) WORDS (ending with –ize)
mechanise mechanize
realise realize
computerise computerize
analyse analyze

(F) Spelling: Suffixing ‘full’

Rule 14:

If ‘full’ is suffixed to any word then one ‘l’ in ‘full’ is omitted, as shown below-

WORD SUFFIX COMPOUND WORD
use full useful
beauty full beautiful
revenge full revengeful
skill full skillful
power full powerful
color full colorful
faith full faithful

(G) Tricky Words

Go through the following tricky words which are pronounced as same but are spelled differently-

loose (not firmly fixed) Lose (unable to retain or lost something)
new( recent) knew (past of know)
no (negative response) know (aware of)
piece (portion) peace (calm)
refuse (reject) refuge (shelter)
sole (undersurface of foot) soul (the spirit)
steal (to snatch) steel ( a metal)

(H) Differences between British and American English

(i) Final ‘l’ is not doubled in American English, on the other hand British English accepts‘ll’.

American English: traveler, leveling etc.

British English: traveller, levelling etc.

(ii) Words ending with –tre and –ter

American English: theater, center

British English: theatre, centre

(iii) Some more words with different spellings in American and British English

AMERICAN ENGLISH BRITISH ENGLISH
tire tyre
program programme
defense defence
practice practise
jewelry jewellery
check cheque
analyze analyse

Exercises/Worksheet/Activities on Spellings with Answers

Choose The Correct Word Exercises/Worksheet/Activities On Spelling With Answers:

In the below questions a word is given along with a suffix. You have to choose the correct compound word thus formed - from the choices given. You can refer to the answer provided in the end of the exercise-

1) Which word is formed by joining the following - hit + ing

  1. a) hiting
  2. b) hitting

2) Which word is formed by joining the following – merry + er

  1. a) merier
  2. b) merrier

3) Which word is formed by joining the following – call + ing

  1. a) calling
  2. b) caling

4) Which word is formed by joining the following – all + most

  1. a) almost
  2. b) allmost

5) Which word is formed by joining the following – remorse + full

  1. a) remorseful
  2. b) remorsefull

6) Which word is formed by joining the following – hail + ed

  1. a) hailled
  2. b) hailed

7) Which word is formed by joining the following – fuel + ed

  1. a) fuelled
  2. b) fueled

8) Which word is formed by joining the following – quarrel + ed

  1. a) quarreled
  2. b) quarrelled

9) Which word is formed by joining the following – plan + ing

  1. a) planning
  2. b) planing

10) Which word is formed by joining – decline + ing

  1. a) declineing
  2. b) declining

11) Join the words – beg + ing

  1. a) begging
  2. b) beging

12) Join the words – prefer + ed

  1. a) prefered
  2. b) preferred

13) What word is formed by combining the two – lazy + ness

  1. a) laziness
  2. b) lazyness

14) What word is formed by combining the two – play + ed

  1. a) plaid
  2. b) played

15) What is the plural of ‘man’-

  1. a) men
  2. b) mans

16) What is the plural form of ‘story’-

  1. a) storys
  2. b) stories

17) What is the plural of ‘cat’-

  1. a) cats
  2. b) cates

18) Combine the two – fume + ing

  1. a) fumeing
  2. b) fuming

19) Combine the two – role + ing

  1. a) rolling
  2. b) roleing

20) Join the two – see + ing

  1. a) seing
  2. b) seeing

21) Join the words – beauty + full

  1. a) beautiful
  2. b) beautifull

Answers- 1)b, 2)b, 3)a, 4)a, 5)a, 6)b, 7)a 8)b, 9)a, 10)b, 11)a, 12)b, 13)a, 14)b, 15)a, 16)b, 17)a, 18)b, 19)a, 20)b, 21)a

See Also:

English Grammar