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General Spelling Rules

If you’ve ever felt afraid to write without a spell checker, this lesson is for you. While you should definitely keep spell check turned on, here are a few simple rules to boost your spelling confidence.

“I” Before “E”

Did you ever learn the rhyme, “I before E except after C, or when sounded as A, as in neighbour  and weigh”? That mnemonic makes this rule easy to remember, so let’s look at some examples:

  • chief
  • yield
  • niece

  • ceiling
  • receive
  • deceit

  • eight
  • vein
  • veil

Now, it’s time for some exceptions!

  • weird
  • foreign
  • leisure

  • science
  • efficient
  • ancient

Spell check will almost certainly correct you if you spell one of these words wrong.

Change -y to -ie when Pluralizing

If a word ends in -y when it’s singular, change it to -ie when you pluralize:

  • bunny bunnies
  • sky skies
  • party parties

When to Add -es to Pluralize

Generally, you make a word plural by adding -s to the end of  it. But with words that end in -s, -sh, -ch, -x, -z, you add -es to make them plural.

  • bus buses
  • brush brushes
  • church churches
  • fox foxes
  • buzz buzzes

If the -ch is pronounced like a “k”, you pluralize by just adding -s.

  • stomach stomachs

Changing -f to -ves when Pluralizing

This is our last rule about plurals. Words that end in -f or -fe usually change their ending to -ves in the plural.

  • scarf scarves
  • knife knives
  • leaf leaves

Of course, there are exceptions:

  • chief chiefs
  • roof roofs

Words that end in -ff just add -s:

  • cliff cliffs
  • sniff sniffs

Doubling Consonants

When you add a suffix (ending) to a word, double the final consonant if the last three letters are consonant vowel consonant.

  • hop hopping
  • stop stopped
  • beg begging

There are many exceptions to this rule, so pay attention to your spell checker.

Adding -ly

Adding -ly to a word is very common when you’re forming adverbs. Generally, you just stick the -ly right on to the end of the word.

  • sad sadly
  • general generally
  • childish childishly

Now, it’s time for some exceptions!

If the word ends in -ll, just add -y:

  • full fully

If the word ends in -le, remove the -e and and -y:

  • capable capably

If the word ends in -y, remove the -y and add -ily:

  • angry angrily

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