Most Common Rules

Here are the most common spelling rules in English.

Spelling Problems in English

Spelling words in English is challenging work. As a matter of fact, many native speakers of English have problems with spelling correctly. One of the main reasons for this is that many, many English words are NOT spelled as they are spoken. This difference between pronunciation and spelling causes a lot of confusion. The combination "ough" provides an excellent example:

Tough - pronounced - tuf (the 'u' sounding as in 'cup')
Through - pronounced - throo
Dough - pronounced - doe (long 'o')
Bought - pronounced - bawt

It's enough to make anyone crazy!!

This feature provides a guide to the most common problems when spelling words in English.

Swallowed Syllables - Three Syllables Pronounced as Two Syllables

Aspirin - pronounced - asprin
Different - pronounced - diffrent
Every - pronounced - evry

Swallowed Syllables - Four Syllables Pronounced as Three Syllables

Comfortable - pronounced - comftable
Temperature - pronounced - temprature
Vegetable - pronounced - vegtable

Homophones - Words That Sound the Same

two, to, too - pronounced - too
knew, new - pronounced - niew
through, threw - pronounced - throo
not, knot, naught - pronounced - not
Same Sounds - Different Spellings

'Eh' as in 'Let'


'Ai' as in 'I'


Next, click below to study spelling word problems with silent letters (for example: island) and letters combining to make different sounds (gh = f as in 'cough').

Capital Letters

Use Capital (T, S, B, etc.) letters for the following types of words:

·         Days, Months and Public Holidays

Monday, January, Christmas

·         Proper names of People and Places

Jack, Maria, New York, Germany

·         Titles for People

Ms, Dr, General

·         Nationalities and Regions (both nouns and adjectives)

Dutch, Swedish, Basque

·         Titles of Works of Art (content words only)

The Last Day of Summmer, American Journal of Medicine

When to Double Final Consonants

The final consonant of a word is often doubled when adding -ed, -ing, -er, -est in the following cases:

·         Double final "b, d, g, l, m, n, p, r and t" at the end of words:

rob - robbing
sad - sadder
big - bigger
travel - traveller
skim - skimming
win - winner
pop - popping
prefer - preferred
hit - hitting

·         Double these final letters there is the following pattern "consonant - vowel - consonant" at the end of a word. For example: travel - 'vel' v - consonant - e - vowel l - consonant.

·         Words of more than one syllable have their consonants doubled only when the final syllable is stressed.

begin - beginn ing BUT open - opening
defer - deferr ing BUT offer - offering

·         When words have more than one syllable and end in 'l' British English always doubles the 'l', even in the case of unstressed syllables. American English, on the other hand, the 'l' is not doubled when the syllable is unstressed.

British English - travelled
American English - traveled

Part II discusses spelling when a word ends in 'e, ie or y'.


Silent Letters

The following letters are silent when pronounced.

D - sandwich, Wednesday
G - sign, foreign
GH - daughter, light, right
H - why, honest, hour
K - know, knight, knob
L - should, walk, half
P - cupboard, psychology
S - island
T - whistle, listen, fasten
U - guess, guitar
W - who, write, wrong

Unusual Letter Combinations

GH = 'F'

cough, laugh, enough, rough

CH = 'K'

chemistry, headache, Christmas, stomach

EA = 'EH'

breakfast, head, bread, instead

EA = 'EI'

steak, break

EA = 'EE'

weak, streak

OU = 'UH' country, double, enough


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