If you are learning a new spelling first LOOK at it (to see if it reminds you of any other words or spelling patterns you already know), then COVER it (and try to ‘see’ the word in your mind’s eye), then WRITE it (from memory) and finally CHECK it (to see if you were right).
If you have to spell a difficult or new word from memory or from just hearing it, LISTEN to its sound (say it slowly to yourself several times) and think which letters might represent those sounds; THINK about spelling rules or patterns you know; WRITE down two or three spellings which might be correct then decide which looks or ‘feels’ right. Finally CHECK in a dictionary/spellchecker.
You won’t always be able to use a spellchecker or a dictionary or ask someone how to spell a word, especially in an exam. So learn to think about word families: if you can spell appear, you shouldn’t have problems with disappear, disappearing, disappeared, and so on; think about word origins: you shouldn’t forget the n in ‘government’ if you remember that its job is to govern us.
- q is always followed by u, except in Iraq
- i comes before e except when it follows c (e.g. friend, brief, but ceiling, receive)
- If all is followed by another syllable, it loses one l (e.g. also, already, always; but note that all right must be written as two words)
- If a word ends with a single vowel followed by a single consonant, you must double the consonant if adding an ending which begins with a vowel (e.g. shop–shopped–shopping; swim–swimmer–swimming)
- If you add full or till to the end of another word or syllable, you must drop one l (e.g. hopeful, until).
- Drop the final e from a word if adding an ending which starts with a vowel (e.g. love–loving; rattle–rattling)
- Keep the final e in a word if adding an ending which begins with a consonant (e.g. love–lovely; rattle–rattled)
- If a word ends with a consonant followed by y, change the y to i before all endings except ing (e.g. funny–funnily; marry–married– marrying)
- An i or ee sound at the end of a word is nearly always shown by the letter y (e.g. country, hungry, but common exceptions are coffee, committee and taxi as well as foreign borrowings, especially Italian words such as macaroni and spaghetti)
- The i before e except after c rule is generally true, but not if the sound is ay (e.g. neighbour and weigh). Other common exceptions to this rule are: counterfeit, foreign, forfeit, leisure, reign, seize, sovereign.
- Think about the meanings of words which sound the same but have different spellings (e.g. their/there/they’re and to/too/two).
- Regular plurals are formed by simply adding an s to the singular word (e.g. horse–horses; dog–dogs)
- Words which end with a consonant followed by y form the plural by changing the y to ies (e.g. baby–babies; lady–ladies)
- To form the plural of a word ending in s, x, z, ch, sh or ss, add es (e.g. bus–buses, fox–foxes, church–churches, miss–misses)
- Most singular words which end with f or fe change the f or fe to ves to form the plural (e.g. knife–knives; leaf–leaves; wife–wives). Common exceptions to this rule are chief, dwarf, roof and safe which simply add an s to form their plural.
- A few words can form their plural either by adding s or by changing the final f to ves (e.g. hoof; scarf; wharf).