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English Words - Spelling Help

Updated on December 9, 2011
Old Dictionary, pages with words, short DOF shot in RAW with 4x Closeup Filter, this thing is only like 2 tall, used to be my mum's and it later had a distressing time while I burned it with a magnifying glass as a kid :D
Old Dictionary, pages with words, short DOF shot in RAW with 4x Closeup Filter, this thing is only like 2 tall, used to be my mum's and it later had a distressing time while I burned it with a magnifying glass as a kid :D | Source

Two Golden Spelling Rules

Spelling English words is intuitive to some people. Others find spelling extremely difficult. There are some very good spelling rules covering how words sound. Knowing these rules helps writers to spell intuitively. There are two extremely important rules in which the sound of the word tells you how to spell it. Using these rules help you decide how to spell an unfamiliar word, even when you have never come across the word before, and you can also extrapolate from the rules to help you to spell all English words better not just those that word rules directly cover.

The Magic ‘e’

Beloved by primary school teachers, the magic e rule is very useful to anyone writing in English. It is also one of the most important phonetic spelling rules in English. It occurs so frequently, and affects how one pronounces and forms words. The Magic ‘e’ rule simply means that adding an e after a consonant at the end of a word already containing a vowel lengthens and softens the first vowel sound. E.g. the sharp u sound in cut becomes a longer softer sound in cute.

The Magic ‘e’ rule always works. Hat, fat, mat, tot, bit, and at, all contain one vowel. In these words, the vowel sound is short and sharp and the emphasis falls on the word’s final consonant. However, in the words hate, fate, mate, tote, bite, and ate, the magic ‘e’ changes the vowel sound making it longer and softer with the stress falling on the first vowel, rather than the consonant.

The Double Letter Rule

Double letters in English spelling emphasize the consonant sound in the word. Thus, desert meaning a geographical noun for a vast expanse of dry, hot, sand, as in the Sahara desert, is different to the word dessert meaning the sweet course, or pudding, after a meal. Saying the word aloud will help you to know how to spell it. In the word ‘desert’, the stress is placed on the first ‘e’, however, in ‘dessert’ the stress is on the last syllable and the ‘s’ sound is very prominent. There are some exceptions to this rule and complicated in words having more than one set of double letters. However, remembering that the emphasis falls on the double letters, will help you to spell correctly naturally. The double letter effect can also make the emphasis seem as though it is on the vowel preceding the double letter, and in this case, the stress falls on the syllable containing the double letter, as it does in the word milligram.

Saying words aloud, putting the stress in different places will help you to get the right spelling, for example, the words below, and bellow sound differently, and if you want to write bellow, saying the word aloud will tell you immediately that it needs a double ‘L’ in the middle of the word to give it the right sound.

Children, when learning to read, are encouraged to break words down and sound out the syllables. This is also a useful skill, when trying to spell words correctly, although there are some difficult sounds and words in English, many English words are spelled exactly as they sound.


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  • Mercia Collins profile image

    Mercia Collins 6 years ago from United Kingdom

    English words are so difficult to spell for some people, especially for those who have never been taught to sound out the syllables, and for those learning English as a second language.

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

    Great stuff for those who don't know it, and for those who need to remember it. :)

    Important info in a concise format. Voted up.

  • GClark profile image

    GClark 6 years ago from United States

    Good article on a subject that will be helpful for anyone learning English as a second language. Voted Up. GClark