A Step at a Time
I am always uncomfortable using the word 'rule' as it implies that any rule will be 100% consistent. Unfortunately, not all spelling rules are, although some are definitely helpful.
Whatever we choose to call them: rules, generalisations, tips - the reality is that the information can be helpful in giving the child some knowledge of what is likely to happen.
At the End of a Word
The letters q, u, v, j and i are not generally found at the end of a word.
The letter 'y' is used at the end of a word instead of the letter 'i' e.g. boy not boi.
The /uh/ sound at the end of a word is made by the letter 'a' e.g. Tyra.
The /v/ sound is made by the letters 've' at the end of a word e.g. give.
The /juh/ sound is made by the letters 'ge' at the end of a word (not the letter 'j') e.g. cage.
The sound 'ai' at the end of a word is written 'ay' not 'a' e.g. play.
The letter 'o' is likely to say its name at the end of a word e.g. hippo.
There are a few rules on which letters to use to make a 'cuh' sound at the end of a word. They are:
'ke' is used when we want the preceding vowel to 'say its name' e.g. bi-ke, wo-ke.
'ck' is used in words of only one syllable following a short vowel e.g. so-ck, ti-ck.
'c' is used in words of more than one syllable following a short vowel e.g. picni-c, horrifi-c.
'k' is used following a consonant, a digraph or trigraph e.g. bar-k, loo-k.
Many children use the incorrect 's' spelling at the end of a word. It is true that there are a few to pick from, but it helps to remember that only plurals end in a single 's' e.g. nets.
At the end of a single syllable word and following a vowel we will double the letters 'l', 's' or 'f' e.g. pill, kiss and fluff. However, when adding a suffix such as 'full' to the end of a word we will drop the extra 'l' e.g. beautiful. The same is true when we add a prefix such as 'all' to the start of a word e.g. also.
The Silent 'e'
An 'e' at the end of a word is silent except in small words such as me, she, he etc. That silent 'e' has many jobs, the common ones are to:
Make the preceding vowel 'says its name' e.g. fire.
Soften a 'c' or 'g' at the end of a word e.g. fence and cage.
Ensure that we have a syllable with a vowel e.g. ket-tle
Stop the letters 'u' or 'v' from being at the end of a word e.g. glove and blue.
Adding a Suffix
When adding a suffix we have to consider a few things. If the suffix starts with a vowel then:
For words of one syllable we need to consider whether we want the preceding vowel to 'say its name'. If not, we must double the consonant e.g. hop-p-ing, jog-g-ing. It should be noted that we don't double the letter 'x'.
If the preceding vowel is part of a digraph we can simply add the suffix e.g. look-ing.
It is slightly more complex for words of more than one syllable. If the second syllable is not stressed then there is no need to double the consonant e.g. ten-der-ing. If the second syllable is stressed then we need to double the consonant e.g. be-gin-ning.
For words ending in 'e' we can remove the 'e' e.g. drive = driv-ing.
When adding a suffix, you shouldn't remove an 'e' from the end of the word when:
The suffix to be added starts with a consonant e.g. advertise - advertisement.
When that 'e' is doing a job. As an example, in the word knowledge the 'e' is making the 'g' produce its soft sound /juh/. When you add the suffix 'able' to knowledge it is important to retain the 'e' (otherwise the 'g' will harden to /guh/).
If you are adding a suffix to a word ending in 'y' it is important to replace the 'y' with an 'i'. e.g. happy - happ-i-er. The only exceptions you need to consider is when the ending 'y' is part of a digraph e.g. p-l-ay-ing or when applying it would result in two 'i's together e.g. hurry+ ing is not hurriing.
The letter 'q' is always followed by the letter 'u'.
Words beginning with the 'z' sound will be written using 'z' not 's'.
The spelling 'dge' is only used when following a single vowel saying its short vowel sound.
Both 'c' and 'k' can make the /cuh/ sound. However, before the letters 'i', 'e' or 'y', the 'c' changes its sound from /cuh/ to /s/ i.e. 'city', 'fence' and 'cycle'. This is very consistent, the only words I have found that go against this 'rule' are soccer and sceptic (although sceptic can be spelt skeptic it will depend on your country of origin). Once you know that 'c' can change its sound it makes sense that the letter 'k' is used to retain the /cuh/ sound before 'i', 'e' or 'y' e.g. skip, kid, kitten.
Similarly the letter 'g' can make both the /guh/ and /juh/ sound. Before 'i', 'e' or 'y' the letter 'g' can change its sound from /guh/ to /juh/. However, unlike the letter 'c,' this is less consistent. When the 'g' is followed by the letter 'y' it is more likely to change its sound, but before the letters 'i' and 'e' it is only a possibility.
There are many alternative spellings for the sound /sh/. It is very helpful when deciding what 'sh' spelling to use to consider the root word. For example optic - optician and infect - infection.
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