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Sounds and Spelling Rules

Short and Long Vowels
  1. To spell a short vowel sound, only one letter is needed:
    at          red         it         hot         up
  2. To spell a long sound you must add a second vowel. The second may be next to the first, in the VVC (Vowel Vowel Consonant) pattern (Road, maid, cue, etc.) or it may be separated from the first one by a consonant in the VCV pattern (made, ride, tide, etc.). If the second vowel is separated from the first by two spaces, it does not affect the first one. This is the VCCV pattern in which the first vowel remains short. Thus, doubling a consonant can be called "protecting" a short vowel because it prevents an incoming vowel from getting close enough to the first one to change its sound from short to long:
    maid, made, but madder; dine, diner, but dinner.
Words having /k/ Sound
This sound can be spelled in any one of four ways:
1. c         2. cc         3. k         4. ck
  1. The single letter, c, is the most common spelling. It may be used anywhere in a word:
    • cat
    • corn
    • actor
    • victim
    • direct
    • mica
    • scat
    • bacon
    • public
    • cactus
    • inflict
    • pecan
  2. Sometimes the letter c must be doubled to cc to protect the sound of a short vowel:
    • stucco
    • baccalaureate
    • hiccups
    • Mecca
    • tobacco
    • buccaneer
    • occupy
    • raccoon
    • succulent
  3. The letter k is substituted for c if /k/ is followed by an e, i, or y.
    • kin
    • make
    • sketch
    • poker
    • kind
    • risky
    • skin
    • token
    • skill
    • keep
    • liking
    • flaky
  4. Similarly, the spelling ck, is substituted for cc if the following letter is an e, i, or y:
    • lucky
    • picking
    • rocking
    • finicky
    • blackest
    • mackintosh
    • frolicked
    • ducking
    • Kentucky
    • picnicking
    • stocking
    • Quebecker
  5. The letters, k and ck are more than substitutes for c and cc. They are used to spell /k/ at the end of a monosyllable. The digraph, ck, ALWAYS follows a short vowel:
    • sack
    • duck
    • lick
    • stick
    • wreck
    • clock
  6. The letter, k, follows any other sound:
    • milk
    • soak
    • make
    • bark
    • tank
    • peek
    • bike
    • cork
    • tusk
    • hawk
    • duke
    • perk
Words having /j/ sound:
The sound, /j/ is spelled in three ways: j, ge and dge.
  1. The letter j is usually used if the sound if followed by an a, o, or u.
    • just
    • jam
    • jungle
    • injure
    • major
    • adjacent
    • jog
    • jar
    • Japan
    • jury
    • job
    • Benjamin
    • adjust
    • jacket
    • jolly
    • jaguar
    • jump
    • jalousie
  2. The letter g has the soft sound of /j/ and it is used when it is followed by an e, i, or y:
    • gentle
    • ginger
    • aging
    • algebra
    • Egyptologist
    • gem
    • origin
    • gym
  3. If /j/ follows a short vowel sound, it is usually spelled with dge. This is because the letter j is never doubled in English.
    • badge
    • ridge
    • dodge
    • partridge
    • gadget
    • judge
    • edge
    • smudge
    • judgement
    • budget
Words having /ch/ Sound
The sound /ch/ has two spellings: tch after a short vowel, ch anywhere else:
  • witch
  • sketch
  • botch
  • satchel
  • catch
  • hatchet
  • kitchen
  • escutcheon
Which, rich, much, such, touch, bachelor, attach, sandwich, and ostrich.

Words having /kw/ sound:
This sound is always spelled with the letters, qu, never anything else.
E.g. Question, Quote, quarrel, quest

Words having /Sh/ sound:
When this sound occurs before a vowel suffix, it is spelled ti, si, or ci.
  • partial
  • cautious
  • patient
  • vacation
  • special
  • deficient
  • suspicion
  • suction
  • inertia
  • delicious
  • ratio
  • pension
  • musician
  • physician
  • optician
  • quotient
  • electrician
  • nutrition
  • statistician
  • expulsion
The sounds at the end of musician and condition sound alike. But....
  1. cian always means a person, where...
  2. tion or sion are never used for people.
Where are tion or sion used?
  1. If the root word ends in /t/, use -tion: complete, completion
  2. If the root word ends in /s/ or /d/, use sion:
    Extend - extension
    suppress - suppression
  3. If the sound of the last syllable is the "heavy" sound of /zhun/ rather than the light sound, /shun/, use s: confusion, vision, adhesion
Exception: The ending, --mit becomes -mission:
  • permit - permission
  • omit - omission
  • submit - submission
  • commit - commission
Words with hiss sound
  1. The letter s between vowels sounds like a z:
    • nose
    • result
    • noise
    • present
    • partisan
    • tease
    • preside
    • resound
    • reserve
  2. The light "hissy" sound is spelled with either ss or ce. Predictably, ss, like any proper doubled consonant, follows accented short vowels. Soft c is used anywhere else. (A soft c is one that is followed by e, i, or y).
    • notice
    • reticent
    • massive
    • bicycle
    • recent
    • gossip
    • russet
    • rejoice
    • essence
    • vessel
    • discuss
    • pass
  3. The plural ending is always spelled with a single letter s unless you can hear a new syllable on the plural word. In that case, use -es:
    • loss, losses
    • bank, banks
    • twitch, twitches
    • tree, trees
    • box, boxes
    • list, lists
    • judge, judges
Words with ‘ie’ or ‘ei’
  • ‘I’ is used before ‘e’ as in achieve, believe, brief, chief, friend, grief, hygiene, patience, pierce, priest, thief.
  • Exceptions after ‘c’: ceiling, conceit, conceive, deceit, deceive, perceive, receipt, receive.
  • ‘e’ is used before ‘i’ when sounding like AY
    Examples: beige, feint, freight, inveigle, neighbour, sleigh, vein, weigh, weight

Note: Some exceptions to the above rule are either, neither, caffeine, codeine, counterfeit, foreign, forfeit, height, leisure, protein, their, weird, seize, seizure.
Published date : 24 Sep 2010 02:10PM

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