Spelling: Rules

At some point, many of us learned some handy spelling rules that we’ve carried with us for years.

Most people probably remember the mnemonic:

  • I before E except after C.

That’s a very useful rule for remembering how to spell believe and receive. But what about seize and seizure? And what about leisure, either, or heifer?

English spelling is frequently inconsistent. Some rules can account for quite a few words, but few rules can account for all words.

When linguists draw up complete spelling rules for English, they tend to be so numerous and complex that they can be poor teaching tools. In Englicious, the lessons on morphological rules governing the joining of suffixes to root words, which is a known problem for students. If you see a novel word and you wish to add a suffix, how do you do it?

Some educational researchers question whether spelling rules are helpful learning tools at all. Others, including ourselves, argue that rules can be useful as long as we remember that there are many exceptions.


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