1. Basic English Spelling Facts 2. Spelling Clues 3. Word Families 4. More Families 5. Word Fun 6. Some Rules 8. Weird Words Say-it-in-English Entry Page

Absolutely Ridiculous English Spelling

Lesson 7. More Spelling Rules That Work Sometimes

It is difficult to separate Spelling from Pronunciation, because in most languages one depends on the other.  The letters with which a word is spelled determine how that word is pronounced, OR  the way a word is pronounced determines which letters are used to spell that word.  This is true in the languages we are familiar with - French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Arabic and others.   English often does not follow this pattern.

There is a Rule that says:

bale care cake bole gate mile more sire line fame yoke site
dale dare fake dole hate pile pore tire mine game bike bane
gale fare lake hole late rile sore wire nine lame dike Dane
hale hare make mole mate tile tore dime pine name hike lane
kale mare rake pole pate wile wore lime tine same like mane
male pare sake role rate bore yore mime wine tame pike pane
pale rare take sole duke core dire rime here broke rule sane
sale tare wake bate nuke fore fire time mere coke bite wane
tale ware coke date bile gore hire dine came poke kite  
bare bake woke fate file lore mire fine dame woke rite  

Can you depend on this rule to help you spell words that have long vowel sounds?  Sometimes.   The word families illustrated on previous pages give you many exceptions to worry about.  Example: When you hear a one-syllable word with a Long E sound, you may think, "This is a word with E + consonant + Silent E."  You would be correct if the word were 'HERE'.  But what about BEER, FEAR, TIER and the hundreds of other words that spell the Long E sound differently?

CONCLUSION: This rule is useful for telling you how words with  Vowel +  Consonant + Silent E should be pronounced, but it does not help you to spell them.

SOFT AND HARD C AND G

This is a Rule English shares, at least in part,  with several other languages.  The Rule says:

Soft C words Hard C words Soft G words Hard G words
cement cite camel correct gem giblet gab, gas, gallon, gather 
ceiling city carrot cotton gentle gist get, together, 
center citizen castle cube gesture gym gift, girl, give, gill
certain circle camp cure gerbil gymnasium go, got, ghost, good
cession cycle come cucumber gelatin gyrate gun, guppy, gut
cent cyber core cut giant germ gold, gum, gobble

A good example of the unpredictable nature of this rule is guilt (the fact of having broken a legal or moral law), pronounced with a Hard G because of the silent U after the G, and gilt  (gold-covered), pronounced the same way, with a Hard G, and in violation of the rule, and jilt , (to break off a romantic relationship when the other person doesn't want to), with a J which is pronounced with the Soft G sound and follows the rule.

CONCLUSION: Although there are some exceptions to this rule, you can rely on it most of the time.

SHORT VOWEL SOUND BEFORE TWO CONSONANTS

In nearly all one-syllable words  that have a single vowel followed by two consonants, the single vowel will have a Short Vowel sound.  To relate this to spelling, if you hear a one-syllable word with a Short Vowel sound in it followed by a K sound, there is a good chance that the K sound will be spelled by CK.  In other cases, you should be able to hear the two final consonants:  -sh, -lk, -rk, -sk, -th, -ch, -nd.  The only way this may possibly help your spelling is: if you hear a one-syllable word with a short vowel sound followed by  two consonants, you can be almost positive that the vowel sound is made be a single vowel.   

tack bicker lick mock peck bash hash posh bask path pest rank wink
tech buck lock muck pick bust hush plush cask rather rest sank bunk
tick sack luck hack puck cash lash rash mask moth test tank dunk
tock sick dock heckle rack custom lush rush task best zest link punk
tuck sock duck hick wreck dash mash sash bath destiny bank mink sunk
back suck mackerel hock rock dish mush such hath festival dank pink with
beckon lack mechanic pack ruckus gash gnash wish math nest lank sink whisk

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The Short Vowel sounds can also be spelled in other ways; with a vowel followed by a single consonant:( bat, hit, set, got, nut) or by two vowels followed by a single consonant: (head, dead, said)

bat dot hot mat pot tat cod god mud sod ran said
bet fat hut met rat wet cud had nod Ted tan stead
bit fit jet net rot wit dad hid pad wed dead tread
but get jot not rut bad did kid pod ban dread thread
cat got jut nut sat bed dud lad red can head bread
cot gut let pat set bid fad led rid fan deaf threat
cut hat lit pet sit bud fed lid rod man lead  
debt hit lot pit sot cad gad mad sad pan read  

CONCLUSION: Following this rule to pronounce words will work most of the time.  Using it to guide your spelling will have only limited usefulness, but it will help you get a better feel of the English language.

Exercise: For each of the following words, write which spelling rule it illustrates, (Rule 1) Long Vowel + Silent E, (Rule 2)  Soft or Hard C and G, or (Rule 3) Short Vowel + Two Consonants.

1. fake = 6. cereal = 11. hope = 16. kite = 21. here =
2. fact = 7. check = 12. hock = 17. kit = 22. herd =
3. rice = 8. rack = 13. giggle = 18. cite = 23. gold =
4. brick = 9. rake = 14. gaggle = 19. plane = 24. cold =
5. brake = 10. race = 15. jiggle = 20. plant = 25. cell =

For several more examples of English words that defy logic, go to the Next Page.     To order Free "Absolutely Ridiculous English Spelling" lessons by e-mail, or to buy the Audio or print versions on a CD, go to our Order Page.

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