The 12 Basic Standout Spelling Rules You Need to Know
Knowing the basic spelling rules will help you in so many ways by making you stand out from the crowd anytime and any day. Spelling rules can take the mystery out of spelling by demonstrating patterns among seemingly unrelated words.
Studying these rules will help you see connections between unfamiliar words as well as words you already know.
Before we begin, it’s worth noting that, due to the nature of English, there’s no such thing as a hard and fast spelling rule. Many rules come with exceptions because English borrows from many languages.
It’s constantly changing and adopting new words, too. Still, let’s lay a foundation with the rules listed below. They might not work every time, but they’ll work often enough to help you succeed.
Spelling Rules You Need to Know
1. “Q” Is Followed By “U”
The letter Q is almost always followed by U, as in words like “queen,” “earthquake,” and “equity.” When used in this way, the U is not considered to be a vowel. There are exceptions to this rule, but they’re few and far between.
2. “S” Never Follows “X”
The letter S never follows X. The letter C often takes its place to achieve the desired sound, as in excise and excite.
3. “C” Makes Two Sounds
The letter C can make either the “K” sound or the “S” sound. You’ll hear it pronounced as a “K” before most letters, including words like “cat,” “cloud,” and “cotton.” You’ll hear it pronounced as an “S” before the vowels E, I, and Y, as in words like “century,” “citation,” and “cyclical.”
4. Short Vowels Only Need One Vowel
In most words with a short vowel sound, only one vowel is needed. Examples of this rule include “at,” “it,” “hot,” “red” and “up.”
5. Double the “F,” “L,” and “S” in One Syllable Words
If these letters come at the end of a one-syllable word, you must double them. Examples include the double F in “stiff,” the double L in “stall,” and the double S in “class.”
6. Drop the Final “E” After a Suffix
When adding a suffix, you usually need to drop the final E, especially in American English. Many words end with a silent final E, and when adding an ending that starts with a vowel, you should always remove it.
In this way, “come” becomes “coming,” “hope” becomes “hoping,” “race” becomes “racing” and “squeeze” becomes “squeezing.”
7. Remove an “L” From “All” as a Prefix
The word “all,” when written alone, has two L’s. When used as a prefix, however, only one L is written. Examples of this rule include “almost,” “also,” “altogether” and “always.”
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8. Prefixes (Generally) Don’t Change the Spelling
Generally, adding a prefix to a word does not change the correct spelling. So, adding de- to “activate” results in “deactivate,” and adding non- to “fiction” becomes “nonfiction.”
9. Suffixes Don’t Have to Change the Spelling
Words ending in a vowel and Y can add the suffix -ed or -ing without making any other changes. “Jockeying,” “journeying,” and “toying” are all examples of this rule.
10. Contractions Need Apostrophes Where Letters Are Missing
This sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? The apostrophe in “can’t” signifies the missing letters “N” and “O” in “cannot.” But, think of other words we use; ol’ is a good example. Have you ever seen someone write it as ‘ol? If so, that apostrophe was placed in error, because the apostrophe stands in place of the D that is missing from “old.” An apostrophe should only hang wherever the letters are missing.
11. Proper Nouns Must Be Capitalized
Proper nouns are specific people, places, or things. They’re not buildings, but the Empire State Building. They’re not states, but the state of Georgia. Proper nouns are specific labels, and whenever someone’s name or the official title is being used, these nouns must be capitalized.
12. Words Do Not End With “V” or “J”
We thought we’d end on a clear note. Even though this rule is mostly true, similar to “Q” being followed by “U,” there are a few exceptions.
It’s tough to encompass all the twists and turns of the English language into one concise list. “Rules” is a tough word to use in this context, because grammar rules tend to shift, depending on the situation. Still, a basic understanding will help you in times of uncertainty.