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Spelling Rules

Spelling Rule Example Words Useful Links

Endings which sound like /shus/ spelt cious or –tious. Exception: anxious.

vicious, precious, conscious, delicious,

malicious, suspicious ambitious, cautious, fictitious, infectious, nutritious


Endings which

sound like /shal/ Usually spelt–cial after a vowel letter and –tial after a consonant letter, but there are some exceptions.

official, special, artificial, partial, confidential, essential

Exceptions: initial, financial,

commercial, provincial


Words ending in –ant,–ance/–ancy,–ent,–ence/–ency

observant, observance, (observation), expectant (expectation), hesitant,

hesitancy (hesitation), innocent, innocence, decent, decency, frequent,

frequency, assistant, assistance,

obedient, obedience,


Words ending in –able and–ably. Are usually used if there is a complete root word e.g. reason /reasonable


Words ending in –ible and–ibly. Are usually used if there is no clear root word e.g. horrible/horribly

dependable, comfortable/comfortably understandable/understandably reasonable/reasonably enjoyable,



possible/possibly, horrible/horribly,

terrible/terribly, visible/visibly,

incredible/incredibly, sensible/sensibly


Adding suffixes beginning with vowel letters to words ending in –fer


The r is doubled if the –fer is still

stressed when the ending is added.

The r is not doubled if the –fer is no

longer stressed.

referring, referred, referral, preferring, preferred, transferring, transferred

reference, referee, preference, transference


Use of the hyphen

co-ordinate, re-enter, co-operate, co-own


Words with the /ee/ sound spelt

ei after c

deceive, conceive, receive, perceive, ceiling


Words containing the letter-string

Ough. -ough is one of the trickiest spellings in English – it can be used to spell a number of different sounds.

ought, bought, thought, nought, brought, fought

rough, tough, enough


though, although, dough


thorough, borough

plough, bough


Words with ‘silent’ letters(i.e. letters

Whose presence cannot be predicted from the pronunciation of the word)

doubt, island, lamb, solemn, thistle, knight


Homophones and other words that are

often confused





and other

words that are

often confused


end –ce and verbs end –se. Advice and advise provide a useful clue as the word advise (verb) is pronounced with a /z/ sound – which could not be spelt c.

More examples:

aisle: a gangway between seats (in a

church, train, plane).

isle: an island.

aloud: out loud.

allowed: permitted.

affect: usually a verb (e.g. The

weather may affect our plans).

effect: usually a noun (e.g. It may have

an effect on our plans). If a verb, it

means ‘bring about’ (e.g. He will effect

changes in the running of the business).

altar: a table-like piece of furniture in a


alter: to change.

ascent: the act of ascending (going up).

assent: to agree/agreement (verb and


bridal: to do with a bride at a wedding.

bridle: reins etc. for controlling a horse.

cereal: made from grain (e.g. breakfast


serial: adjective from the noun series

a succession of things one after the


compliment: to make nice remarks

about someone (verb) or the remark

that is made (noun).

complement: related to the word

complete – to make something

complete or more complete (e.g. her

scarf complemented her outfit).





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