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Learning Resource Centre Guides: Spelling Tips

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Spelling Tips

Spelling Tips

Key terms:


  • Syllable               one sound/one syllable, for example, got
                              two sounds/two syllables, for example, forgot (for/got)
  • Singular               one thing, for example, toy; computer
  • Plural                  two or more things, for example, toys; computers
  • Vowels                a, e, i, o, u
  • Consonants         the remaining 21 letters of the alphabet

                              (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z)


1.  Words ending in silent ‘e’


Drop the ‘e’ when adding these endings: -er  –ed  –ing  –en  -ous


taste   + ed   = tasted

wipe    + ing   = wiping

fame   + ous  = famous


2.  ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ when the sound is ‘ee’


  • i before e, for example, field, believe (the sound is ‘ee’)


  • except after ‘c’, for example, receive (the sound is still ‘ee’). Note the ‘ei’


  • Exceptions:  weird, seize, Feilding


3.  Double the final consonant


When using one-syllable, short vowel words ending in a consonant, e.g. big,

double the final consonant when adding the endings  –er –ed –est –ing


rob     + er    = robber

nab     + ed   = nabbed                        

big      + est  = biggest                        

swim   + ing   = swimming


4.  Words ending in -ful


When ‘full’ is added to a word, change ‘full’ to ‘ful


use     + full = useful

hope   + full  = hopeful

care    + full = careful


5.  Silent letters – watch out for them


g - sign                                      h – hour

w – wrist                                    t – glisten

k – knee                                     u – guide

b – climb                                    n – autumn

p – psychology                            c – scientist


6.  Ending with –able or -ible


  • If the base word is a complete word, use –able

comfort + able = comfortable

fashion  + able = fashionable


  • If the base word is not a complete word, use –ible

impossible; invisible; eligible; terrible



7.  Making the plural for words ending in ‘y’


When a word ends in consonant ‘y’, for example, baby, make the plural by changing the ‘y’ to ‘ies’


Singular                                    Plural

baby                                          babies

library                                        libraries

fly                                             flies


8.  Odd plurals – watch out for them


                    mouse                                       mice

                    child                                         children

                    plateau                                     plateaux

                    focus                                        foci

                    curriculum                                  curricula

                    phenomenon                               phenomena


Remember, some do not change at all:

                   sheep                                        sheep

                   deer                                          deer

salmon                                       salmon

Māori                                         Māori


9.  Compound words – two words put together to make another word


wheel + chair          = wheelchair

                    any     + thing        = anything

                    out     + look          = outlook



10.  Homonyms – SAME sound  -  DIFFERENT spelling  -  DIFFERENT meaning


bear/bare                                   weather/whether/wether

where/wear                                piece/peace

your/you’re                                to/too/two

by/buy                                       their/there    



Spelling tips last updated 22 August 2008