Spelling Bea

spelling bea Spelling BeaGRAMMA TICKLE’S cousin BEA now offers bi-monthly tips and quips on the subject of proper English spelling!










For words with SUFFIXES: First, consider the ROOT. If it ends in silent ‘e’, drop the ‘e’ if the suffix starts with a vowel (examine + ation = examination); keep it if it doesn’t (care + less = careless). If the root ends in ‘f’, change it to ‘v’ before adding the suffix (mischief + ous = mischievous). If it ends in ‘y’ preceded by a consonant, change ‘y’ to ‘i’ and add the suffix (silly + ness = silliness), unless the suffix is ‘ing’ (carry + ing = carrying). ALWAYS watch for exceptions to these rules (say < said…. day < daily… true < truly).


To PLURALIZE a word that ends in ‘o’, add ‘s’ if the ‘o’ follows a vowel (radios, videos), and ‘es’ if it follows a consonant (heroes, potatoes), except in the case of certain abbreviations (photos, stenos) and ‘musical’ words of Italian derivation (solos, cellos). For example, “We saw videos of audiences throwing tomatoes at sopranos.


Here are two hints for DOUBLING CONSONANTS. First of all, it is IRREGULAR to see two consonants after a single vowel that sounds like its own name (mating vs matting; shiny vs shinny; holy vs holly). Secondly, consonants are rarely eliminated when adding PREFIXES. Always recognize the root first, then apply the full prefix (unnecessary, illegal, dissatisfy, misspell).


If you ever have trouble spelling words that end in suffixes ‘able’, or ‘ible’, just keep in mind the following rule. In English, both ‘c’ and ‘g’ are pronounced HARD (like ‘k’) when followed by ‘a’, ‘o’, ‘u’ (cat, gab, cot, got, cut, gun), but SOFT (like ‘s’) before ‘e’ and ‘i’ (cent, gent, city, gist). Therefore, if the root word ends in ‘c’ or ‘g’ plus silent ‘e’ (notice, change), retain the ‘e’ before adding ‘able’ (noticeable, changeable). If the root ends in any other consonant, drop the silent ‘e’ (advisable, believable). When adding ‘ible’, always drop the silent ‘e’ (legible, convincible, invisible).


Two consonants combined to form a single sound are called a CONSONANT BLEND. Examples include ‘sh’, ‘ck’, ‘ch’, ‘tch’, ‘dg’, and ‘th’, not to be confused with CONSONANT CLUSTERS which combine to make combinations of sounds, such as ‘st’, ‘rk’, ‘bl’, ‘nd’. A couple of simple rules for spelling words that END in consonant blends are 1.) final syllables that contain a long vowel don’t usually end in a blend, but rather, in a single consonant  (either followed by silent ‘e’ or preceded by a vowel sequence) with the exception of ‘ch’ (like, stage, feet, wine, teach)  2.) final syllables that contain a short vowel usually do end in a blend and, with the exception of ‘dg’, no silent ‘e’. (dish, rock, pitch, edge, bath)


One of the best tips for the spelling of English is not to get locked into generalization, as its spelling rules are often self-contradicting. For instance, one sequence of letters can have as many as nine different pronunciations (rough, dough, thought, plough, through, borough, slough, cough and hiccough). As such, though it’s useful to recognize certain basic principles of sound-letter correspondence, it’s also realistic to remain flexible in their interpretation.


If you can’t decide whether to spell a particular word with the suffix ‘ance’ or ‘ence’, here’s a general guide. If the final syllable of the root is stressed (as in ‘refer’), ends in ‘ere’ (‘adhere’) or begins with either ‘g’ or ‘c’ (‘innocent), then use ‘ence’: reference, adherence, innocence. Meanwhile, if it ends in ‘ate’ (‘deviate’), ‘y’ (‘rely’), ‘ear’ (‘forbear’) or ‘ure’ (‘endure’), then use ‘ance’:  deviance, reliance, forbearance, endurance. The rest is memory work!


For nouns ending in -our (in UK and Cdn English) drop the ‘u’ when adding suffixes -ous, -ious, -ary, -ation, -ific, -ize, or -ise, as in humorous, glamorous, laborious, but leave it in for other endings, as in colourful, favourite, odourless.


The suffix -ful (meaning ‘full of’) is always spelled with a single -l: cheerful, grateful. Suffix -fully is always spelled with a double -l: cheerfully, gratefully.To add a suffix that begins with a consonant to a word that ends in double -l, the general rule in the UK is to drop the final -l (skilful, fulfilment) and, in the US, to keep it (skillful, fulfillment). In either case, keep the double -l before suffix -ness: illness, fullness.


There are usually no changes to the infinitive of a verb when forming the present participle (with -ing) and the past tense (with -ed), as in ASK, ASKING, and ASKED. However, if the infinitive ends in a single vowel plus a consonant, the consonant should be doubled if the stress falls on the final syllable of the verb, as in ADMIT, ADMITTING, ADMITTED. If the stress does not fall on the final syllable, do not double the consonant, as in VISIT, VISITING, VISITED.


‘There’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’! We all know them to be the hot topic for confusion in spelling. But do we know what to call them collectively? HOMOPHONES (from Greek ‘same sound’) are words pronounced the same, but with a different spelling or meaning, as in ‘one’ and ‘won’. Meanwhile, HOMOGRAPHS (from Greek ‘same writing’) are words of the same spelling, but with a different meaning that can be either HOMONYMS (‘homo’ = ‘same’: pronounced the same, as in ‘bark’ like a dog or ‘bark’ of a tree) or HETERONYMS (‘hetero’ = ‘other’: pronounced differently, as in ‘refuse’ (noun) and ‘refuse’ (verb). As such, ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’ fall under the heading of HOMOPHONES.


In 354 AD, with the Christianisation of Germanic Europe, the original pagan Feast Day of Dec.6 came to be replaced by a celebration on Dec.25 of the birth of the Christian Messiah. The use of the word Cristesmaesse in Old English was first recorded in 1038, evolving to Cristes-messe in 1131, then Cristemasse in Middle English, and finally to Christ Mass, or Christmas, as we know it today. Crist was from Greek Khristos, a translation of the Hebrew Masiah, or Messiah, meaning ‘anointed’. Meanwhile, Maesse was from Latin missa, which was the name for the celebration of the eucharist.













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