Spelling Rules

24 spelling rules used in Syllable Savvy Spelling

 Spelling Rules

Spelling Rule A

Short and Long Vowels

Short vowels are used more frequently than long vowels. Unless otherwise stated, use the short vowel sound in a word.

The short vowels can be recognized by the words in this list:

sad     bed     lid     box     sun

A long vowel sound is indicated with a line over the top of the vowel.

ā     ē     ī     ō     ū

Long vowels can be recognized by the words in this list:
day     bee     light     rope     tune

Long vowels say their name. (Exception: the long U sound does not have the Y glide we pronounce at the beginning of the letter.)

Spelling Rule B


The schwa is a symbol that looks like an upside down lower case e. It makes the "uh" sound in "duh." It is the most common sound in modern English and can be spelled by any of the five vowels.

The schwa is used instead of a short u when the "uh" is in the unstressed syllable:

schwa humbug

Both have the same sound, but the short u is stressed and the schwa is unstressed.

Spelling Rule C

Change Y To I

When adding “s” to a word that ends in “y” to make it plural, change the y to i and add es.

cry > cries         study > studies

Spelling Rule D

Silent Letters

Some words have silent letters. In most cases, the pronunciation changed over many years but the spelling did not.

talk     dumb     castle     wrist

Spelling Rule E

F to V

An F or FE at the end of a word will be changed to VES to make it plural.

life > lives         knife > knives

Note that no word ends in V. Therefore a silent e is required at the end.

have     give

Spelling Rule F

Add ES instead of S

Add ES instead of S to make the plural of words ending in S, X SH, or CH:

glass > glasses     fox > foxes     dish > dishes     church > churches

Spelling Rule G

Spelling Pronunciation

The spelling and pronunciation of some words are very different. Sometimes the number of syllables is even different. It often helps to remember a unique pronunciation for these unusual words.

interest > in TER est
camera > cam ER ә
business > biz ē nis

Spelling Rule H

J At Start or End of a Word

J makes a soft “g” sound at the beginning of a word, usually before a, o, or u . G may be used before i or e.

Job     Ginger

Words do not end in J. Most require a “ge.”

Gage     Edge

J is seldom used in the middle. (Exceptions: enjoy, major, subject, object, inject, reject and other “ject” words.)

Spelling Rule I

Drop the Silent E

Drop the silent E when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel.

bike     biking     biked     biker

Spelling Rule J


The past tense of most words is formed by adding ED to the end. The word may be pronounced “ed” or “d” or “t” at the end. Note that some of these words are pronounced as a single syllable. Used and clapped remain one syllable. Headed is two syllables.

Spelling Rule K

Double the Consonant

Double the consonant when adding an ending with these 3 conditions
  1. The root word ends with a single consonant (hop; not hope or hurt)
  2. The vowel before the consonant is a single vowel (hop; not meat)
  3. The ending begins with a vowel (ed or ing; not hops)

hopping     hopped

Spelling Rule L

Open and Closed Syllables

A syllable with a short vowel sound is usually closed by a consonant at the end. A syllable with a long vowel sound is usually open with the vowel at the end of the syllable:

tablet > tab let     table > ta ble

Short A: In the word “tablet,” the “b” is usually pronounced with the second syllable and not the first. However, since the “a” is a short vowel sound, it is closed with the “b” at the end of the syllable.

Long A: The "a" is long in "table," therefore it is open. This rule will assist in learning the spellings of many larger words.

Spelling Rule M

I pronounced as Long E

Some words have an “I” that says “E.”

radio     Indian     pizza

Spelling Rule N


Many words are spelled with IGH which makes a long I sound:

high     light     bright

Spelling Rule O


OUGH can make the sound of a short O, a long O, or a long U:

thought     though     through     although     bought

There are a limited number of these words but they are relatively common.

Spelling Rule P


Can make the sound of a short O or short A:

taught     caught     haughty     naughty     daughter     laugh     laughter

There is a very limited number of these words.

Spelling Rule Q


Some words end in OR instead of “er.” They are often careers.

doctor     sailor     pastor     tailor

There are multi-syllable words of Latin origin that also end in OR.

elevator     labor     advisor     horror     investigator

Spelling Rule R


There are a limited number of words with “ar” at the end with the “er” sound. It is more common with scientific words.

sugar     pillar     nuclear     molecular

Say This: “The wizard with a lizard walked backward through the blizzard with a dollar on his collar." While that is not all of the AR ending words, it will give you a headstart.

Spelling Rule S

I Before E

The world's most famous, hated, and self-broken spelling rule. Let's take it in parts:

I before E :     believe     chief     pie
Except After C:     deceive     receipt
Or with a long “A” as in “neighbor” or “weigh

AND THEN - all the exceptions. However, it is still easier to learn this rule and memorize the exceptions than to have no idea which of the two ornery letters comes first.

Spelling Rule T

Suffixes with Different Spellings but the Same Sound

Okay, this is cheating. It is multiple rules rolled into one. But let's quit quibbling about the number of rules and learn them: The world's most famous, hated, and self-broken spelling rule. Let's take it in parts:


tion (the most common): sion (less common) cian (rare)


tial cial


ous (the most common): ious (less common) eous (rare)

Spelling Rule U


An apostrophe takes the place of a missing letter or letters:

didn’t     they’ll     he’s     I’ve

Spelling Rule V


If the last vowel of the root word is an“a” or “o” the suffix is usually “ance.”

distance     circumstance

If the last vowel is an “i” or “e” the suffix will likely be “ence.”

difference     intelligence     convenience

Spelling Rule W


If the root word is a verb, the suffix is likely to be “able.” You are “able” to do it!

passable     teachable     applicable

If the root word is not a verb (or particularly if it is not a word at all) one will generally find the IBLE instead of the ABLE:

possible     eligible   horrible

Spelling Rule X

Initial A

A word beginning with a short A or indistinct schwa sound usually is followed by two consonants. If there is only one consonant sound, it is usually doubled.

abdomen     advice     addition

The most common exception is the word "address." Since there is a D and an R after the initial A, one would expect not to have a double D. Too bad; you need to double it anyway.

Exceptions, Exceptions, Exceptions

The only rule without exceptions is that rule that says there are no exceptions.

English spelling is as full of exceptions to spelling rules as swiss cheese is full of holes.

However, spelling rules begin to bring order to the chaos. It is easier to learn two or three exceptions than to have no idea what letters belong where.

Syllable Savvy Spelling and the 24 Spelling Rules

We do not use endless lists of spelling rules or have students memorize rules.

Instead, several words are taught together along with a simple spelling rule. One or two rules are taught in a week.

These rules are given a letter that does not change over the different levels of Syllable Savvy Spelling. For instance, the C Rule states that a Y is changed to I before adding es. This is the C Rule in 3rd grade Syllable Savvy as well 8th grade and every level in between.

In the coming weeks, other words using that rule are added and identified. This prevents the phenomenon of giving students a rule and multiple words with that rule all at the same time. Reinforcement is provided by selectively adding new words that represent that rule.

Student are free to check the list of rules. They aren't required to memorize them. (Exception: they do need to memorize in Rule F the four ending letters that require an ES to pluralize a word. They also need to memorize in Rule K the three conditions to double a consonant.) Apart from those exceptions, learning the rules is done by repetition and not memory.

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