Spelling Rules

Conventional Spelling Rules

Eight Great Spelling Rules

Teachers should teach the sound-spelling system as part of a balanced spelling program. To determine the individual needs of your students, teachers need the comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment to diagnose students and plan effective instruction.

As I previously mentioned, each of the six posts will begin with a brief reflection about the instructional spelling component, follow with a rationale for teaching that component, and finish with some free instructional spelling resources. The components of each of the six posts are as follows:
1. Diagnostic Assessment 2. Sound-Spellings 3. Spelling Rules
4. Spelling Lists and Tests 5. Spelling Practice 6. Integrated Spelling and Vocabulary.

This week we explore how to teach the spelling rules.


  • I know the key eight conventional spelling rules that work most all of the times.
  • I have an instructional plan in place to teach these spelling rules.
  • I have formative assessments in place to analyze their progress.


Just because the English sound-spelling system works in only about 50% of spellings does not mean that there are not predictable spelling patterns to increase that percentage of spelling predictability and accuracy. Although the sound-spelling patterns are the first line of defense, the conventional spelling rules that work most all of the time are a necessary back-up.

Spelling Resources

Here are the Eight Great Spelling Rules with links to memorable MP3 songs and raps to help your students (and you) remember them. TURN THEM UP!

1. The i before e Rule

Usually spell i before e (believe), but spell e before i after a c (receive) and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor).

The i-before-e Spelling Rule

2. The Final y Rule

Keep the y when adding an ending if the word ends in a vowel, then a y (delay-delayed), or if the ending begins with an i (copy-copying). Change the y to i when adding an ending if the word ends in a consonant, then a y (pretty-prettiest).

 The Final y Spelling Rule

3. The Silent e Rule

Drop the e (have-having) at the end of a syllable if the ending begins with a vowel. Keep the e (close-closely) when the ending begins with a consonant, has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, then an “ous” or “able” (peaceable, gorgeous), or if it ends in “ee”, “oe”, or “ye” (freedom, shoeing, eyeing).

 The Silent e Spelling Rule

4. The Double the Consonant Rule

Double the last consonant, when adding on an ending (permitted), if all three of these conditions are met: 1. the last syllable has the accent (per / mit)  2. the last syllable ends in a vowel, then a consonant (permit). 3. the ending you add begins with a vowel (ed).

The Double the Consonant Rule

5. The Ending “an” or “en” Rule

End a word with “ance”, “ancy”, or “ant”  if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (vacancy, arrogance) or if the root ends with “ear” or “ure” (clearance, insurance). End a word with “ence”, “ency”, or “ent” if the root before has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (magnificent, emergency), after “id” (residence), or if the root ends with “ere” (reverence).

 The Ending “an” or “en” Rule

6. The “able” or “ible” Rule

End a word with “able” if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (despicable, navigable), after a complete root word (teachable), or after a silent e (likeable). End a word with “ible” if the root has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (reducible, legible), after an “ss” (admissible), or after an incomplete root word (audible).

The “able” or “ible” Rule

7. The Ending “ion” Rule

Spell “sion” for the final zyun sound (illusion) or the final shun sound (expulsion, compassion) if after an l or s. Spell “cian” (musician) for a person and “tion” (condition) in most all other cases.

 The Ending “ion” Rule

8. The Plurals Rule

Spell plural nouns with an s (dog-dogs), even those that end in y (day-days) or those that end in a vowel, then an o (stereo-stereos). Spell “es” after the sounds of /s/, /x/, /z/, /ch/, or /sh/ (box-boxes) or after a consonant, then an o (potato-potatoes). Change the y to i and add “es” when the word ends in a consonant, then a y (ferry-ferries). Change the “fe” or “lf” ending to “ves” (knife-knives, shelf-shelves).

 The Plurals Rule

A Model Grades 4-8 Spelling Scope and Sequence

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4-8

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Preview the Grades 4-8 Spelling Scope and Sequence tied to the author’s comprehensive grades 4-8 Language Strand programs. The instructional scope and sequence includes grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary. Teachers and district personnel are authorized to print and share this planning tool, with proper credit and/or citation. Why reinvent the wheel? Also check out my articles on Grammar Scope and Sequence, Mechanics Scope and Sequence, and Vocabulary Scope and Sequence.

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING AMERICAN ENGLISH AND CANDADIAN ENGLISH SPELLING PROGRAMS. Check out these grades 4-8 programs HERE. Administer my FREE comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with audio file and recording matrix. It has 102 words (I did say comprehensive) and covers all common spelling patterns and conventional spelling rules. It only takes 22 minutes and includes an audio file with test administration instructions. Once you see the gaps in your middle school students spelling patterns, you’re going to want to fill those gaps.

Get the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, Matrix, and Sample Lessons FREE Resource:


Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. Cheryl Merrick
    August 14th, 2009 at 10:36 | #1

    Your books look like a valuable resource to teachers especially those in higher grades.
    As I have tutored children who are struggling in school for the last 36 years, I have seen what a great help music can be in memorizing rules. Your using raps and songs to help children remember spelling rules is wonderful!

  2. Shawna Huggins
    August 24th, 2009 at 09:52 | #2

    Hi Mark, Nice article. We appreciated your comments on our posts and wanted to return the favor. Here are some fun activities that parents can do with their children as Warm Ups for the start of school http://www.creativelearningsource.blogspot.com

  3. Mary
    September 9th, 2009 at 11:46 | #3

    Hi there mark – i have a question that im hoping you could answer.
    Why is it that we say 1 house and many houses. but 1 mouse and many
    MICE? What is this rule? i would like to be able to understand . why are there mouses? or Hice?

    Hoping for a good reply,


  4. September 9th, 2009 at 15:58 | #4

    Sorry to disappoint. Plurals do have exceptions and spelling irregularities are many.

  5. May 1st, 2019 at 17:22 | #5

    Sorry, I don’t. Good idea, though.

  6. Di
    April 13th, 2020 at 23:00 | #6

    Cause that is how it should be.

    If you pronounce plural : mouse – mouses it gives harder impact / or unnecessary pressure to you articulation. It is because English letters / sound and words are coined to make communication flow easily.

  7. Lany V Herrera
    March 31st, 2021 at 04:51 | #7

    I was unable to download:
    Would you please send me the information?
    Thank you!
    Ms. Lany Herrera
    4th Grade Teacher
    Thank you

  8. April 22nd, 2021 at 05:35 | #8

    Fixed. My apologies.

  9. Mairghread Connolly
    July 20th, 2021 at 15:15 | #9

    Often the differences in words are due to origin
    Mouse = Sanskrit
    House = German

    Not all languages true same alphabet

  10. Jose Aguire
    July 24th, 2022 at 05:06 | #10

    Marvelous site to help teachers with their everyday work.

    Thanks so much.

  11. Lindy
    February 8th, 2024 at 02:32 | #11

    Hi, I was wondering if there was a link to the green 8 great spelling rules document? I’d love to be able to access it for my kids. Thank you

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