Literacy Information and Communication System

Massachusetts Department of Education
Bay State Readers Initiative/Phonics and Spelling Grades 3-5


The examples following each rule given below can be used to test learners' knowledge of particular rules. For GED level readers, use more sophisticated and, if appropriate, polysyllabic examples of the rules.


1. -ff -ll -ss -zz
When a one syllable word ends in the /f/, /l/, /s/, or /z/ sound, double the final f, l, s, or z after a short vowel.
Examples: cuff, pill, mess, buzz.

2. c- k-
Use c before a consonant or the vowels a, o, and u. Use k before the vowels e, i, and y.
Examples: cat, cot, cut, key, kiss.

3. -k -ck [two part rule]
When a one syllable word ends in the /k/ sound, use -ck after a short vowel.
Examples: neck, pick, sack
BUT, use k after a consonant, long vowel sound, or after two vowels.
Examples: silk, cake, speak

4. -ch -tch
When a one syllable word ends in the /ch/ sound, use -tch after a short vowel, use -ch otherwise.
Examples: patch, witch, Dutch
Exceptions: rich, which, much, such

5. -ge -dge
When a one syllable word ends in the /j/ sound, use -dge after a short vowel, -ge after a consonant or long vowel.
Examples: hedge, badge, fringe, huge

6. Doubling Rule (1-1-1)
When a one syllable base word ends in one consonant with one short vowel before it, double the final consonant of the base word when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel.
Examples: mad + est = maddest; but mad + ly = madly

7. Silent E Rule
Words ending in silent e drop the e before a suffix beginning with a vowel but do not drop the e before a suffix beginning with a consonant.
Examples: hope, hoping, hopeful

8. Y Rule
Final y after a consonant changes to i before any suffix except one beginning with i (-ing, -ist).
Examples: copy, copies, copied; copying, copyist; boy, boys

9. Plurals
Add es to words ending with s, ss, sh, ch, x, z.
Examples: passes, slashes, churches, foxes
Change f or fe to v and add es.
Examples: knife to knives; half to halves

There are more spelling generalizations, from basic understandings such as "a vowel in every syllable," "the effect on the vowel of final e in one syllable words," "marking past tense, -d, -ed, -t," and "r-controlled vowel patterns" to those more advanced spelling conventions such as the "use of less frequent affixes (pleasure, fortunate, flexible, confident, opposition...)," and "knowledge of spellings derived from other languages, e.g., confide, fortunate, emphasize." (See Bear, D. [2000] in References for full citation.)


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