Spelling RulesClassical Foundations Spelling Rules Page
This page is inspired by (and much borrowed from) the work of Linda Shrock Taylor, Dolores G. Hiskes抯 Phonics Pathways, and my own experience in teaching reading and spelling for beginner pupils and pupils lacking a foundation in spelling principles.
Today, schools tend to teach a mixture of methods (in the great drive to plurality and polylogism) predominantly employing forms of look-say, in which pupils have to learn ten words a week for the school year, which means that if they are consistently given out, pupils may learn 380 words a year. To become a competent reader and speller, Linda advises that we need to learn about 200,000 words, which at ten words a week would take us 384 years!! Yikes. On the other hand, the 29 spelling rules give access to most of the words in the English language!
Critics enjoy pointing out the exceptions to the rules, but there can only be exceptions if there are rules in the first place. Ignoring the rules damages our ability to spell, write, and read. Critics also miss the fact that their exceptions are often covered by other rules or are imported foreign words or remainders from the long and convoluted history of the English language with its many dialects and imports. Often an exception to the rule has an entertaining history to uncover - e.g., want comes from Scandanavian words waante and wont, evolving into the wont sound we now use with the want spelling; come derives from cum and kom, and the e was put their by Medieval scribes desirous of following some fashion or other (source: Oxford English Dictionary).
The table below is a work in progress: teaching (and learning) the rules with pupils draws attention to the exceptions or problems in explaining the rules; I have adapted and will no doubt continue to adapt the order, or emphasis, according to pupils reactions and my own thinking. Thus far, I have tried to begin with the simpler rules before advancing to more complex rules just as with reading, we begin with short vowel sounds before moving onto long vowel sounds and their respective spellings (c-a-t before d-a-y, and d-a-y before m-a-k-e or r-a-i-d or r-e-i-g-n!).
The following rules are designed to help spelling to expand reading abilities, we need to know how to pronounce the vowels (a,e,i,y,o,u), consonant blends (bl, fr, thr, etc.) and the varieties of diphthongs (oo, au, ou, ea, ai, etc.) and silent letters (climb, know, race) that the English language throws our way. For that, the reader should embrace phonics not only do phonic methods work effectively but they are also the methods by which we begin our learning of other languages! Schools don抰 seem to put the two together though (ooh neat
combination there ough has five main sounds, -uff, uh, ow, or, off), for when
we pick up a French dictionary, we are provided with phonetic instructions on how to sound the words so why not start our kids off on the same path in their own tongue?
Constructive comments from considerate people always welcome.
Dr Alexander Moseley.
Spelling Rule Number and NameRuleExamplesNotes
1. The q and u rule
The letter q is always followed by a u and says /kw/queen, quiet,
quickqueue comes from the French!
2. s and x
s is never followed by x.
3. z rule
Words beginning with /z/ sound are spelled with a z. Words ending in z
double the z, but single short syllable words ending in /z/ can also end
4. ay? or ai?
ay is used at the end of words and says /ā/, while ai is used between
consonants and usually says /ā/ but in one case it can say /e/bay
NB saidAs far as I can tell, said originated from short vowel Old English
and Germanic roots; by the 13th C said has replaced seien and secgan.
Earlier Indo-European root is sekw
5. No i endings
Never end an English word with an i y does the job.cry my shy
flyException: hi! which used to be 慼y till the 19thC.
6. i and y rules
The letters i and y may say, in order of frequency, //, /ī/, /ē/,
silent police onions
gym my baby yo-yos.
7. Long and short i and o rules
Letters i and o say /ī/ and /ō/ when followed by two consonants,
and if followed by double ll.find
8. Beginning k rule
The /k/ sound at the beginning of a word is spelled k if followed by e or
kickSimilarly with consonant blends sketch
9. ending /k/ rule
/k/ is spelled ck at the end of short syllable words, -k at the end of
long syllable words, but c at the end of multi-syllable wordslack
fantasticCompare hick with hike, Mick with Mike
10 Double l, f, s, z rules
When a single short-vowel word ends in l, f, s, or z, we double the
letters to keep the short vowel soundtell
11. The c rules
The letter c followed by e, i, or y says /s/; followed by another vowel c
is said as /k/cent, city, cycle
cat, cot, cut
scar, scotch, scuttle
12. The g rules
The g followed by e, i, or y is usually says as /j/ but can say /g/.
Followed by any other letter g says /g/.gentle, giant, gypsum; BUT get,
gap, got, gut
13. Open syllable rule
Vowels a, e, o, and u say their names (ā ē ō ū) at the end of an open
syllable.grāvy; mē; ōpen; mūsicNB two letter words ending in e always have
an ē sound.
14. r rules the vowels
The letter r changes vowel sounds ar usually becomes /鋜/ but can
become /魊/; -er usually becomes /ur/; -ir becomes /ur/; or usually sounds
/or/ or /ur/ after w-; ur usually becomes /ur/.
When r is mixed in with a, e, or i, it may sound /鈘/ cart, farm
war, warm, warp
air, fair, bear, their, heirSee /ur/ sounds.
15. i before e except after c
i usually comes before e unless it follows c; if we say /ā/, we can also
Silent final e rules
Silent final e has several jobs to do:
Magic eSilent final e makes the preceding vowel say its name.name, race,
hive, gene, hopemost common use of silent final e. Note 7b though!
No u v endingsSilent final e ensures that we never end an English word
with u or v.give, have, love;
true blue glueNote how love is not lōv, but l鹶 ends in a v but employs
an e to secure the rule
e softens c or gSilent final e softens a preceding c or g (cf. rule
charge, lunge,Complex rule that captures other rules too.
Syllables have vowels!Silent final e ensures that final syllables have a
vowellittle bottle, double trouble, uncle dabble,Hear the second syllble
憉l it needs a vowel, so e does the job.
Silent final e helps to distinguish between homophonesor ore
Silent final e ensures that a singular noun (or -s adjective) does not
end in s nurse, purse, dense
e adds lengthSilent final e adds length to short main idea wordsawe
olde English wordsSilent final e that was once pronouncedgiraffe, treatise
/ur/ soundsFive spellings for /ur/: er, ur, ir, wor, earher nurse first
works earlyin order of frequency.
Three 杄d rule-ed has three sounds: words ending in /d/ or /t/ are sounded
/ed/; voiced consonant endings make 杄d say /d/; unvoiced consonant
endings make 杄d say /t/parted parte抎
jumped - jumpt
dge ruledge /j/ can only be used after a short vowelbridge
sh rulessh is used at the beginning or ending of a base word (she, dish)
and at the end of a syllable (finish), but not at the beginning of a
second syllable (except for 杝hips_she
ti, si, ci, rulesti, si, ci, say /sh/ at the beginning of a second or
si following s rulesi says /sh/ when the preceding syllable ends in s or
when a base word ending in s changessession
tense = tension (dropping silent final e)
/zh/ soundssi may also say /zh/ as does sure following an e
Changes to words rules
Short sound syllables double up suffixesA short syllable word with V-C
form doubles up the last letter with suffixes (unless already doubled).
Long vowel words do not double up.hop = hopping
throb = throbbing
flap = flapping
fun = funny
bun = bunny
spill = spilled
thrill = thrilling
hope = hoping
smoke = smoking
pine = pining
dine = dining
muse = musingOkay, buns and bunnies are different entities, but it sounds
2-1-1 accented second syllable ruleWords that have two syllables which
accent the second and which are followed by one consonant need to double
that consonant for any vowel suffixes. If the second syllable is not
accented, do not double the consonant.begin = beginning
en抰er = entering
prof抜t = profiting
budg抏t = budgeting
Drop the e ruleWords ending in silent final e drop the e with suffixes
beginning with a vowel.come = coming
hope = hoping
i.e., avoids an awkward ei conjunction (comeing, hopeing) that would
suggest to pronounce the e
Doubling f, s and lThe letters l, f, and s are often doubled when ending a
one syllable wordwill
kisssometimes applies to two syllable words like recess, ingress, digress
Drop the first l ruleAll written alone as ll, but when used as a prefix
one l is droppedall = always, almost
Drop the last l ruleTill and full lose an l when used as suffixestill =
full = beautiful
y to i rulesy changes to i with suffixes except 杋ng or when the y is
preceded with a u.worry worried
cry cries, cried
buy = buys, buying
c to k suffix ruleA word ending in c changes to -ck for the subsequent
suffixmimic = mimicking
panic = panicked
picnic = picnicking
Usually add an s
unless ending in 杝h, -ch, -tch, z, or s = end in es /ez/ (dishes, witches) Words ending in y = ies (bunnies)
Words ending in f = ves (loaves, wives, wolves)