12 English Spelling Rules With Printable Worksheet

One reason behind the confusing spelling of some words is that English borrows from different languages. But recognizing spelling patterns can reduce all the mystery and frustration.

Here are 12 English spelling rules that every person should know. I also compiled a list of examples and a worksheet to guide you! 

1. Adding Suffixes to Words That End in Y.

Y turning into I when you add a vowel suffix that starts with E is a common spelling pattern. These suffixes include “-est,” “-er,” or “-ed.”


  • Lay – laid (irregular spelling for irregular plural form)
  • Cry – cried – crier.
  • Lovely – lovelier – loveliest.
  • Family – families.
  • Deity – deities.
  • Dry – dried — drier – driest.
  • Baby – babies.
  • Ugly – uglier – ugliest.

Here’s a sentence example:

  • Incorrect: The three familys gathered on New Year’s Eve.
  • Correct: The three families gathered on New Year’s Eve.

Some words are spelling rule breakers. The letter Y remains despite the suffix starting with E.


  • Pray – prayer 
  • Play – player 

Take a look at these sentences:

  • Incorrect: We praied all day for her recovery.
  • Correct: We prayed all day for her recovery.

2. I Before E, Except After C.

The “ie” and “ei” pair of vowels are confusing spelling issues many people encounter. This pair of vowels are called vowel digraphs. Remember that if the letter before the vowels is C, the correct pair is “ei.”


  • Receive.
  • Deceit.
  • Receipt.
  • Deceive.
  • Conceited.
  • Ceiling.

If the digraph does not have a C before it, the correct order is I, then E.


  • Achieve.
  • Believe.
  • Chief.
  • Cashier.
  • Field.
  • Grief.
  • Relieved.
  • Shriek. 

This spelling rule is probably the most essential. The vowel pair is one of the most common spelling mistakes we commit. 

But the age-old “I before E, except after C” is not the complete rule yet. It’s more like, “I before E, except after C, unless it sounds like A.” That means words with “ay” sounds are standard exceptions.


  • Vein.
  • Neigh.
  • Eight.
  • Weight.
  • Weigh.
  • Neighbor.
  • Veil.
  • Sleigh.

Here are more examples:

  • The singer isn’t conceited despite her fame and fortune.
  • Help me pick a veil for my wedding.
  • She can’t wait to visit the strawberry field.

3. Each Syllable Has a Vowel.

Each syllable should be accompanied by at least one vowel, whether you have a mono- or multi-syllable word. One-syllable words with short vowel sounds sometimes only need one vowel. But this rule only applies to some commonly used terms.

The trick is to say the word out loud and count the syllable. After this, check that each syllable has at least one vowel. 


  • Raisin.
  • Bar.
  • Bartender.
  • Chair.
  • Deluded.
  • Shenanigan.
  • Excitement.

Consider these sentences:

  • The priest said a little pryr for the sick man. (This is incorrect because there are no vowels).
  • The priest said a little prayer for the sick man. 

4. The Silent E.

A common spelling rule is that some words with a consonant sound also have a silent E. However, this E does not affect the word’s pronunciation. 

The letter E only makes the vowel sound of the word longer instead of short. For example, the sound of the letter I in kite is long compared to the I in kitten.


  • Rite.
  • Bite.
  • Bike.
  • Pride.
  • Cute.
  • Prune.
  • Bared.
  • Plane.
  • Tame.
  • Blue.

Mastering this spelling rule will help many language users in their writing.

A hard-and-fast spelling rule does not exist. This rule also dismantles one of the most common false spelling rules. The myth is that the silent E in the end always gets omitted when you add a suffix.


  • Mileage (not milage).
  • Canoeing (not canoeing).
  • Manageable (not manageable).
  • Lovely (not lovly).

Here are some sentence examples:

  • Incorrect: The project is easily managable.
  • Correct: The project is easily manageable.

5. Double Consonants.

Mono-syllable words with a vowel in the middle usually have double consonants if the letter after is F, L, or S. This rule is also known as the floss rule.


  • Staff.
  • Stuff.
  • Fill.
  • Hiss.
  • Ball.
  • Pass.

This single-syllable word hiss might be a tough-to-spell English word for some, especially those who don’t know the word.

You should also use double consonants when a multi-syllable word ends in a consonant and is preceded by a vowel. This vowel should be accented for the rule to apply.


  • Control – controlled.
  • Begin – beginning.
  • Brat – bratty.

Here are some sentence examples:

  • Incorrect: Jean is driving toward the tol gate.
  • Correct: Jean is driving toward the toll gate.
  • Incorrect: How does one pas this impossible test?
  • Correct: How does one pass this impossible test?

6. Plural Suffixes

Regular plural forms use the suffixes -s or -es. But when do you use -es? This step is where many get confused. But the basic rule is to ad -es if the word ends in -x, -z, -ch, -sh, or -s. 


  • Bus – buses.
  • Church – churches.
  • Crash – crashes.
  • Quiz – Quizzes.
  • Miss – misses. 
  • Box – boxes.
  • Bush – bushes.

Note how some words double the ending consonant before adding -es.

Take a look at these examples of plural suffixes in sentences:

  • Incorrect: After the first bus, you still need to ride three busses.
  • Incorrect: After the first bus, you still need to ride three bus.
  • Correct: After the first bus, you still need to ride three buses.
  • Incorrect: The boxs are hidden in the basement.
  • Correct: The boxes are hidden in the basement.

7. S Never Follows X.

One cause of spelling mistakes is the letter S sound after the letter x. Note that the letter S is never found after the letter X. Instead, C is the letter you must use for the “s” sound.


  • Excite.
  • Excise.
  • Except.
  • Exception.
  • Excel.
  • Excess. 
  • Excerpt.

Let’s try using “excel” in a sentence:

  • Incorrect: These children will exsel in Mathematics.
  • Incorrect: These children will exel in Mathematics.
  • Incorrect: These children will ecxel in Mathematics.
  • Correct: These children will excel in Mathematics.

8. Short Vowel Rules.

This guideline is a basic English spelling rule everyone will remember. When mono-syllable or one-syllable words include a vowel at the center, it should have a short vowel sound.


  • Cat.
  • Dog.
  • Man.
  • Dad.
  • Mom.
  • Got.
  • Hat. 

9. Use -ck After a Short Vowel.

-ck vs. -k is a common dilemma for words that end with k. Always use -ck after a short vowel. 


  • Duck.
  • Tick.
  • Back.
  • Lack.
  • Rack.
  • Clack.
  • Sick.
  • Lick.
  • Gimmick.

Here’s a sentence example to help you remember the rule:

  • Incorrect: This trik will make your workout routine more efficient.
  • Correct: This trick will make your workout routine more efficient.

Otherwise, the ending of the word should only end in K. 

  • Silk.
  • Peak.
  • Reek.
  • Meek.
  • Beak.
  • Break.
  • Beak.
  • Balk.

Here’s a sentence example to help you remember the rule:

  • Incorrect: Rain leacked from the broken roof.
  • Correct: Rain leaked from the broken roof.

10. Keep Letters with a Vowel and Y Ending

Keep all the letters if you plan to add a suffix to a word with a vowel and Y ending. The whole term stays because you’re not dropping any letter.


  • Jockey – jockeyed – jockeying.
  • Toy – toying – toyed.
  • Journey – journeying – journeyed.

Here’s a sentence example to help you remember the rule:

  • Incorrect: The parents bought Tony and Travis trollies.
  • Correct: The parents bought tony and Travis trolleys.

11. The Prefix Al- is All With a Missing L

The word “all” includes two Ls if you write it alone. But if you use the prefix, it should only have one L as in “-al.” Words that start with this prefix are not to be spelled as compound words that have the whole word “all.” 


  • Almost.
  • Also.
  • Always.
  • Altogether. 
  • Incorrect: The kind woman allways offers him some food.
  • Correct: The kind woman always offers him some food.

12. Q and U are in Pairs

In the vast English language, the letter Q is commonly followed by the letter U. Play it safe by always putting a U when you spell any word with a Q. 


  • Questions.
  • Quill.
  • Quit.
  • Quite.
  • Quiet.
  • Bouquet. 
  • Banquet. 
  • Queer.
  • Quaint. 
  • Acquaintance.

However, an exception to this spelling perspective is not using QU in less common words. 


  • Faqir.
  • Cinq.
  • Qi.

In the End

Now you know the 12 basic spelling rules to follow and a list of their examples. I’ve also shown you that English spelling has its fair share of exceptions. For instance, we use “ei” instead of “ie” if a letter C comes before the digraph. What other spelling tips can you think of? If you want more help to hone your skills, check out our guide to the varieties of English spellings.

Try the spelling tests on the printable worksheet I provided below!

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