Spelling in English, not as easy as A,B,C…!!

We thought it would be a good idea to go over some English spelling rules in this blog post. Now spelling in English is tough! That’s a kind of Chuck Norris kind of tough! 😉 You know that something has to be tricky when they have regional and national competitions in a country! In America they hold what they call spelling bees to help kids learn to spell (Could be helpful for some adults too). So why is spelling in English so tricky? Well, that’s simply because the way a word is pronounced has nothing to do with the way it’s spelt! Now we can blame this on phonemes and graphemes! We will explain… phonemes are the smallest units of sounds in a language. If a phoneme is changed, the word may change, e.g. change the s sound in ‘sack’ to a b and the word changes to ‘back’. In total there are around 43.5, phonemes, now you ask around 43.5? That’s a bit vague. Well, this is because this is a controversial issue and there are people arguing about if there are this number or that number, and if you have one accent or another, so we will go with an article published in the English spelling society that states 43,5, but to keep everyone happy we say around. 😉 You can have a read here if you want to check them out. You’d think that with only this number of phonemes it would be easy to spell, wrong! And this is where graphemes come into play; graphemes are the smallest units in a writing system capable of causing a contrast in meaning. In the English alphabet, the switch from fat to mat introduces a meaning change; therefore, f and m represent different graphemes and you can get graphemes that signal whole words or word parts. A study calculated that in English there are 13,7 spellings per sound and just 3.5 per letter[1]. So what does that mean?? That to spell correctly is very difficult (and should not be left to chance)!!

So here at www.enunciateonline.com we’ve decided to give you a hand and give you some rules so you can get all Bruce lee on Chuck Norris (Way of the dragon) 😉

Our first rule is to do with the letter Y. When we add an ending to a word that ends in -Y- we usually change the -Y- to -I-.

Body-bodily, fury-furious, marry-marriage. This being English there are some exceptions! Firstly, there is no change if there is an -I- after the -Y- as in try-trying, baby-babyish. Secondly, we don’t change the -Y- to an -I- if the -Y- comes after a vowel; buy-buying, play-played. And finally, we change -IE- to -Y- before adding –ING; die-dying, lie-lying.

The next rule is to do with doubling the final consonant. We sometimes double the final consonant at the end of a word before adding – ED- -ER- -EST- -ING- -ABLE- -Y- or any other ending that begins with a vowel. So stop-stopped, sit-sitting. Now you ask, which consonants are doubled? well here you go;


B: rub-rubbing N: win-winner
D: sad -adder P: stop-stopped
G: big-bigger R: prefer-preferred
L: travel-traveller T: sit-sitting
M: slim-slimmer

As you might have guessed, we only double the consonant at the end of a word, you can clearly see this in hop and hope, ‘I hopped to the side of the field after I injured myself’ and ‘I hoped that we would be able to beat Chuck Norris´. 😉

Furthermore, we only double the consonant if it comes after a vowel, so fat-fatter but fast-faster. Moreover, (how many conjunctive adverbs can we come up with today?) 😉 we only double the consonant on stressed syllables, just to complicate things a bit more, so upset-upsetting but visit – visiting. Although in British English they stress most words after a vowel letter, and even in the case of unstressed syllables they double the consonant, e.g. travel-travelling, whilst in American English it’s only spelt with one L- traveling. Ah, those pesky differences 😛

And the last bit of additional information that we will add to this is that if a word ends in -C- we add a K before the suffixes –ED- ER- ING- etc. So picnic- picnickers mimic-mimicked.

And our final spelling rule is to do with the letter -E-, when a word ends in an -E- you remove the -E- before a suffix that begins with a vowel but not before a suffix that begins with a consonant. Need an example to picture it clearly? OK, here it goes; ride-riding


We hope that you’ve found our spelling rules helpful, look out Chuck! 😉 At www.encunciateonline.com we look forward to seeing you soon and helping you to communicate clearly in English.




[1]David Crystal, How Language Works. Penguin, 2007