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Spelling rules

Jan 26, 2014 6:26:00 PM / by Vu Long Tran

Spelling rules
Here's quick cheatsheet with some spelling rules and letter combinations.  These are rules and examples from "The Spelling Skills Handbook", By John Barwick and Jenny Barwick*.

Most of these rules noted below apply to plural nouns and to changes in verb forms.
  • If a word ends in -ch, add –es (e.g., lunches)
    • Exception: If the -ch makes /k/ sound, just add -s.
  • If a word ends in -sh, add –es (e.g., blushes)
    • Don’t be caught by fish. Remember, one fish... two fish
  • If a word ends in –ss or –s, add –es (e.g., buses)
  • If a word ends in –o, add either –s or –es (e.g., mosquitoes)
    • Note: dingoes can also be dingos
  • If a word ends in –x or -z, add –es (e.g., sixes, waltzes)
    • Important: If z comes after a vowel, double the z before adding the -es (e.g. quizzes)
  • If a word ends in a consonant and –y, change –y to –I and add –es (e.g., the word party changes to parties)
  • If a word ends in –y, change the –y to –I to add suffices other than –ing
    • To avoid having double i, always keep the final –y when adding –ing (e.g. trying).
    • Important: watch out for skiing, which does contain double i
    • Other examples include the following:
Base word
Add -es
Add -ed
Add -ly
Add -able
Add -ness
Add –ment
carry
carries
carried
cry
cries
cried
vary
varies
varied
variable
merry
merrily
merriment
happy
happily
happiness
  • If a word ends in –ay, -ey or –oy, do not change the base word to add suffixes (e.g. highways, keys, boys)
Base word
Add -s
Add -ed
Add -ing
play
plays
played
playing
employ
employs
employed
employing
enjoy
enjoys
enjoyed
enjoying
delay
delays
delayed
delaying
pay
pays
(paid)**
paying
buy
buys
(bought)**
buying
**Some verbs in the past tense change their form rather than adding –ed.
  • This rule also applies to adjectives. Adjectives are words that describe, or give more information about, a noun or pronoun.
Base word
Add -ful
Add -less
Add -ous
joy
joyful
joyless
joyous
play
playful
  • Put “i before e except after c”, when it rhymes with bee
o    ie words (i before the e…) that rhyme with bee: (e.g. achieve, believe)
o    cei words (…except after c) that rhyme with bee: (e.g. ceiling, conceit, conceive)
o    Exceptions: seize, weir, weird, protein, caffeine, codeine, Neil, Sheila, Keith, Reid
  • If a word ends in a silent –e, drop the –e to add a suffix beginning with a vowel (including –y)
  • Base word
    Add -ed
    Add-ing
    Add -y
    Add -ous
    Add -al
    Add -ion
    use
    used
    using
    admire
    admired
    admiring
    scare
    scared
    scaring
    scary
    nerve
    nervy
    nervous
    culture
    cultured
    cultural
    fuse
    fused
    fusing
    fusion


    o    Important: Keep the final –e when adding a suffix beginning with a consonant
    Base word
    Add -ly
    Add -ful
    Add -less
    Add -ness
    Add -ty
    Add -some
    sore
    sorely
    soreness
    loose
    loosely
    looseness
    safe
    safely
    safety
    lone
    lonely
    lonesome
    care
    careful
    careless
    hope
    hopeful
    hopeless
    use
    useful
    useless
    noise
    noiseless

    o    Important: Do not drop the final –e when adding –able to words ending in –ce and –ge which have a soft sound (e.g. noticeable, manageable)
  • If a word ends in a single vowel followed by a single consonant, double the consonant to add a suffix beginning with a vowel.
  • Base word
    Add -ed
    Add -ing
    Add -er
    bat
    batted
    batting
    batter
    travel
    travelled
    travelling
    traveller
    marvel
    marvelled
    marvelling
    commit
    committed
    committing
    control
    controlled
    controlling
    controller
    Base word
    Add -ous
    Add -al
    Add -able
    marvel
    marvellous
    commit
    committal
    control
    controllable
  • In most cases you can form plurals of nouns ending in –f or –fe, by changing the –f, or –fe, to –v and adding –es (e.g., calf to calves)
  • o    Exceptions: chiefs, roofs, handkerchiefs, cliffs, reefs
  •   Some plurals are made by changing some of the letters of the base word, or by adding an unusual suffix (e.g., goose to geese, from medium to media, from fungus to fungi)
  •   Some nouns only exist only as plurals (e.g. one fish = a school of fish, one deer = a herd of deer, one salmon = four salmon, one sheep = a mob of sheep)
  • Related links
      References:
      *Barwick, J (1999). The Spelling Skills Handbook. Sydney: Horwitz Education, pp42-54.
      Vu Long Tran

      Written by Vu Long Tran

      Solutions Engineer APAC @pymetrics . ex-@Forrester consultant. Tweeting on #cloud, #cybersecurity, #equality and #tech tinkering!

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