Demos > Spelling Rules > Early > Harder

SPELLING RULES by Gill C Cotterell

Spelling rules need to be taught to a class or child when the need arises. Many bad spellers have logical minds and can master rules. As these govern hundreds of words, the learning load is considerably reduced.

For those to whom they cause confusion, keep them very simple. After teaching a rule, refer to it frequently when an opportunity arises, and watch for its spontaneous application.


  • When c is followed by e, i or y it says s. Otherwise it says k.
    e.g. Says s: centre, ceiling, circle, cycle
    cf. Says k: cottage, cave, cream, curious, clever

  • When g is followed by e, i or y it says j. Otherwise it says g as in gold.
    e.g. Says j: gentle, giant, gymnastic
    cf Says g: gallon, guide, glass, grow
    Exceptions: get, begin, girl, give, gear, geese, gift, girth

  • Words ending in an o preceded by a consonant usually add es to form the plural.
    e.g. potato-es, volcano-es, torpedo-es
    Exceptions: pianos, solos, Eskimos.

  • When w comes before or it often says wer as in worm.
    e.g. work, worth, worst, worship.
    Exceptions: worry, worried, wore, worn.

  • i comes before e when it is pronounced ee, except when it follows c or when sounded like ay as in neighbour and weigh
    e.g. brief, field, priest, receive, deceive, ceiling.

  • ti, ci, si are three spellings most frequently used to say sh at the beginning of all syllables except the first.
    e.g. {national, patient, palatial, infectious}, {gracious, ancient, musician, financial}, {session, admission, mansion, division}.

  • Words ending in a single l after a single vowel, double the l before adding a suffix regardless of accent.
    e.g. cancelled, traveller, signalling, metallic.

  • If a word of more than one syllable ends in a t, preceded by a single vowel, and has the ACCENT on the last syllable, double the final consonant.
    e.g. {permit, permitted}, {admit, admitted}, {regret, regretted}. but: {visit, visited}, {benefit, benefited} - do not double t.

This list of spelling rules is adapted from an article by A D Bannatyne and G C Cotterell in the ICAA Word Blind Bulletin, Winter 1966, on 'Spelling for the dyslexic child'.


Childs, Sally and Ralph (1964): "Spelling Rules", New Revision
Fowler, W S (1962): "Fowler's Scientific Spelling pub.", MacDougalls' Educational Co., Edinburgh
Lewis, N (1965): "20 Days to Better Spelling" (now out of print)
Spalding, R B, W T (1962): "The Writing Road to Reading", Whiteside/Morrow, New York





Products | Price List | How to Order