Never be stumped again! Here, New York tutor Lauren P. shares some tips to remember tricky rules and get the spelling help you need…
To preface, not every word follows a strict spelling rule. There are always exceptions and irregular forms. Therefore, keep this in mind before memorizing any of the following rules.
1) Use funny memory tools for complicated spellings
There are many creative ways to remember irregular words with double letters or an assortment of vowels. The weirder the better! Here are a couple of ideas:
• Tomorrow: Tom borrows bees tomorrow.
• Address: I saw an ad for a dress at this address.
• Dessert vs. Desert: I’ll have seconds of dessert but no extra desert please.
• Separate: Keep me away from the rat in separate.
2) Silent e helps a vowel say its name
You can often determine spelling based on pronunciation. When a word ends in a vowel, consonant, and silent e, the vowel is long, which means it is pronounced like the alphabet letter itself. When a word ends in a consonant, then the vowel is normally short. Listen to the vowel pronunciations in the following examples:
• Fat vs. fate
• Rid vs. ride
• Dud vs. dude
• Tot vs. tote
• Red vs. recede
When spelling words in the future, decide if there is a silent e by sounding out the long or short vowel.
3) When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking
When there are two vowels in a row, the first usually has a long sound and the second is silent. For example: Beam, moat, wait weave, soar.
4) A for actions and e for events
Many words sound alike but mean different things in writing. Remember the correct spelling for the more common words that sound alike. For accept versus except, affect versus effect, and than versus then, remember that a stands for action words and e stands for events.
• Accept: To receive or agree (verb) — He accepted their apology.
• Except: Other than (preposition) — Everyone went to the beach except Tyler.
• Affect: To influence (verb) — Will lack of sleep affect your mood?
• Effect: Result (noun) — Will lack of sleep have an effect on your mood?
• Than: Comparison — He is richer than she is.
• Then: Order of events — First we must study, then we can play.
Accept and affect are both actions, while except and effect refer to events. Similarly, than compares (a verb or action) two things, while then refers to the order of events.
5) Are you ible or able?
Able can stand alone as its own word but ible cannot. The same will be true for their respective root words. If a root word is not a complete word on its own, add ible. If a root is a complete word on its own, or is a complete word ending in e, drop the e and add able. For example:
• Visible, horrible, terrible, possible, edible, eligible, incredible
• Acceptable, fashionable, laughable, suitable, dependable, comfortable
• Excusable, advisable , desirable, valuable, debatable
There are, however, some exceptions: Contemptible, digestible, flexible, responsible, irritable, inevitable.
6) Choose the right version of the word
For all of the following word forms, remember that an apostrophe is used as a contraction to combine and condense two words: It’s stands for it is, they’re stands for they are, we’re stands for we are, and you’re stands for you are. Take note of the following word forms:
• It’s: It is or it has.
• Its: Possessive (shows that something belongs to another) — The doll had a ribbon in its hair.
• They’re: They are.
• Their: Possessive — Give back their chairs
• There: A place word, containing the word here (both here and there answer the question, where?) — I parked my car over there.
• To: Preposition — They went to the lake to swim.
• Too: Very or also (notice the double o represents a double emphasis) — He was too tired to stay awake. I was hungry, too.
• Two: Number — Two minutes until close.
• We’re: We are.
• Where: A place word, containing the word here — Where are you going?
• Were: Past tense of are — They were going to the store.
• You’re: You are.
• Your: Possessive — Your bag is new.
7) I/E Rule
One of the most well-known spelling help phrases is: Write i before e, except after c, or when it sounds like an a, as in neighbor and weigh. Examples:
• Relief, believe, niece, chief, sieve, field, yield
• Receive, deceive, ceiling, conceit, vein, sleigh, freight, eight
• Exceptions: Seize, either, weird, height, foreign, leisure, species, counterfeit, forfeit, neither
• Cien exceptions: Ancient, efficient, sufficient, science, conscience
While you can memorize the most common spelling rules, make a habit of using funny rhymes or imaginative mnemonic devices to commit new words to memory. Need extra spelling help? TakeLessons tutors are here to help — book lessons with me or find another English, reading, or writing tutor in your area!
Lauren tutors in various subjects in New York, NY. She has her Master’s Degree in Education (with a concentration in students with learning disabilities), and is a certified NYC Special Education teacher. Learn more about Lauren here!
Photo by Janet Galore