The Top 4 Spelling Rules (With Exceptions)

Spelling rules are a bit like weather forecasts: we may pay attention to them, but we really can’t depend on them to be right 100% of the time. In fact, the only foolproof rule is that all spelling rules in English have exceptions. Still, many writers find that certain rules help them remember how to spell particular types of words, especially those formed by adding suffixes (or word endings). Here we’ll look at four popular spelling rules that may be helpful to you.

01 Using I Before E
Use i before e, except after c, or when sounded as “a” as in “neighbor” and “weigh.”

Examples: believe, chief, piece, and thief; deceive, receive, weigh, and freight

Common exceptions: efficient, weird, height, neither, ancient, caffeine, foreign

02 Dropping the Final E
Drop the final e before a suffix beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) but not before a suffix beginning with a consonant.

ride + ing = riding
guide + ance = guidance
hope + ing = hoping
entire + ly = entirely
like + ness = likeness
arrange + ment = arrangement

Exceptions: truly, noticeable

03 Changing a Final Y to I
Change a final y to i before a suffix, unless the suffix begins with i.

defy + ance = defiance
party + es = parties
pity + ful = pitiful
try + es = tries
try + ing = trying
copy + ing = copying
occupy + ing = occupying
Common exceptions: journeying, memorize

04 Doubling a Final Consonant
Double a final single consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel when both of these conditions exist:
(a) a single vowel precedes the consonant;
(b) the consonant ends an accented syllable or a one-syllable word.

stop + ing = stopping
admit + ed = admitted
occur + ence = occurrence
stoop + ing = stooping
benefit + ed = benefited
delight + ful = delightful