Tag Archive | how to spell

6 incredibly useful spelling rules from childhood

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In English, there are words that sound the same but are spelled differently (such as “their,” “they’re,” and “there”); words with letters that have nothing to do with how the word is pronounced (“brought,” “although”); words that contain silent letters (“gnat,” “pneumonia”); and words that simply don’t follow any spelling rules.

Let’s revisit those spelling rules we learned long ago and the words that break those rules.

1. “I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh”

Words that break this rule:

  • ancient
  • species
  • science
  • sufficient
  • society
  • either
  • foreign
  • leisure
  • protein

2. “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking?” (Meaning when there are two vowels in a row, the first usually has a long sound and the second is silent.)

Words that break this rule:

  • said
  • through
  • leather
  • early
  • piece
  • build
  • guide
  • shoes
  • does
  • guest
  • break

3. Final silent E makes the vowel say its name (such as “rat,” “rate,” “hid,” “hide”)

Words that break this rule:

  • have
  • done
  • lose
  • where

4. Plural nouns—add an “s” or an “es”

Words that break this rule:

  • goose/geese
  • man/men
  • mouse/mice
  • tooth/teeth
  • alumnus/alumni
  • series
  • deer
  • sheep
  • species

5. If a word ends with an “ick” sound, spell it “ick” if it has one syllable (“trick”) and “ic” if it has two or more syllables (“sarcastic”)

Words that break this rule:

  • candlestick
  • seasick
  • nitpick

6. “A” versus “an”—if the first letter is a vowel use “an”; if the first letter is a consonant, use “a.”

Words that break this rule:

  • an honest
  • an honorable
  • a unicorn
  • a united front
  • a urologist
  • a onetime

Readers, any other rule-breaking words to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. Read more of her work at Impertinent Remarks.

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