While spelling used to be taught via simple memorization, experts now believe that understanding key spelling rules is the best way to master new words.
Rules help you learn new spelling words in several different ways. For example:
- They take the mystery out of spelling by demonstrating patterns among seemingly unrelated words.
- They show connections between unfamiliar words and words you already know.
- They help you identify specific speech patterns that can offer clues as to how a word is spelled.
- They explain how new words are built using prefixes and suffixes.
Basic Spelling Rules
One of the most common spelling rules taught to elementary students is "I before E, except after C, unless it says A as in neighbor and weigh." However, there are a number of other rules that you can use to help decode the spelling of an unfamiliar word. For example:
- The letter Q is always followed by U. In this case, the U is not considered to be a vowel.
- The letter S never follows X.
- The letter Y, not I, is used at the end of English words. Examples of this rule include my, by, shy, and why.
- To spell a short vowel sound, only one letter is needed. Examples of this rule include at, red, it, hot, and up.
- Drop the E. When a word ends with a silent final E, it should be written without the E when adding an ending that begins with a vowel. In this way, come becomes coming and hope becomes hoping.
- When adding an ending to a word that ends with Y, change the Y to I if it is preceded by a consonant. In this way, supply becomes supplies and worry becomes worried.
- All, written alone, has two L's. When used as a prefix, however, only one L is written. Examples of this rule include also and almost.
- Generally, adding a prefix to a word does not change the correct spelling.
- Words ending in a vowel and Y can add the suffix -ed or -ing without making any other change.
If you are interested in a rules-based approach to improving your spelling skills, check out the Spelling Rules Web site. The creator of this site has developed a Spell500 instructional method that uses spelling rules to teach students how to master up to 500 new words per day. By focusing on understanding before memorization, this study method proposes to drastically increase your spelling abilities. Six free sample lessons are available online to help you get started.
To learn more about how you can use spelling rules to become a better speller, check out the following helpful links:
- Spelling Rules in English offers a list of simple rules to help people who are learning English as a second language.
- Dyslexia.org has a list of spelling rules designed to assist learning disabled students in mastering new vocabulary words.
- A Lost Art discusses the decline of spelling instruction in public schools while providing a list of rules that can be used to help master new spelling words.
- Rules and Suggestions about Spelling contains spelling rules as well as general tips for mastering new words.
- Absolutely Ridiculous Spelling provides a slightly humorous look at the seemingly inconsistent methods of spelling everyday vocabulary words.
- Garden of Praise has clever songs that you can use to help memorize a variety of common spelling rules.
The yourDictionary Web site has a list of Commonly Misspelled Words that includes rules you can use to help yourself remember how to correctly spell these tricky words. A Guide to English Pronunciation also includes a few helpful spelling tips.