Although the American-English spelling system has evolved from many sources, there are specific patterns that are well-worth learning. These spelling patterns, or spelling rules, all have exceptions; however, they are minimal. It is always efficient to memorize the rule, rather than all of the exceptions. In baseball, batters are taught to “look for the fastball, and adjust for the curve.” The same is true in the American-English spelling system. The following are the key spelling rules that work most of the time in the American-English spelling system.
1. The i before e Rule
Usually spell i before e (believe), but spell e before i after a c (receive) and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor).
2. The Final y Rule
Keep the y when adding an ending if the word ends in a vowel, then a y (delay-delayed), or if the ending begins with an i (copy-copying). Change the y to i when adding an ending if the word ends in a consonant, then a y (pretty-prettiest).
3. The Silent e Rule
Drop the e (have-having) at the end of a syllable if the ending begins with a vowel. Keep the e (close-closely) when the ending begins with a consonant, has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, then an “ous” or “able” (peaceable, gorgeous), or if it ends in “ee”, “oe”, or “ye” (freedom, shoeing, eyeing).
4. The Double the Consonant Rule
Double the consonant, when adding on an ending (permitted), if all three of these conditions are met: 1. the last syllable has the accent (per / mit) 2. the last syllable ends in a vowel, then a consonant (permit). 3. the ending you add begins with a vowel (ed).
5. The Ending “an” or “en” Rule
End a word with “ance”, “ancy”, or “ant” (vacancy, arrogance) if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound or if the root ends with “ear” or “ure” (clearance, insurance). End a word with “ence”, “ency”, or “ent” if the root before has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (magnificent, emergency), after “id” (residence), or if the root ends with “ere” (reverence).
6. The “able” or “ible” Rule
End a word with “able” if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (despicable, navigable), after a complete root word (teachable), or after a silent e (likeable). End a word with “ible” if the root has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (reducible, legible), after an “ss” (admissible), or after an incomplete root word (audible).
7. The Ending “ion” Rule
Spell “sion” (illusion) for the final zyun sound or the final shun sound (expulsion, compassion) if after an l or s. Spell “cian” (musician) for a person and “tion” (condition) in most all other cases.
8. The Plurals Rule
Spell plural nouns with an s (dog-dogs), even those that end in y (day-days) or those that end in a vowel, then an o (stereo-stereos). Spell “es” after the sounds of /s/, /x/, /z/, /ch/, or /sh/ (box-boxes) or after a consonant, then an o (potato-potatoes). Change the y to i and add “es” when the word ends in a consonant, then a y (ferry-ferries). Change the “fe” or “lf” ending to “ves” (knife-knives, shelf-shelves).
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