Common rules to remember

There are some general rules that can help when checking your spelling. For example:

'i' before 'e' except after 'c'

Athletes in a race arriving at the finish line wearing t-shirts with the letters c, e or i printed on them to represent the spelling rule i before e except after c.

Notice how the ‘i’ comes before the ‘e’ in believe, achieve and retrieve.

But after a ‘c’ the ‘e’ comes before the ‘i’ as in receive, ceiling and deceit (beware that the word weird likes to break this rule - perhaps because it is weird!).

Past tense

Take care when using the past tense. You usually need to add ‘-ed’ to a verb, though some verbs need extra consonants as well.

Here are some examples of verbs that add ‘-ed’ in the past tense:

VerbPast tense
walkwalked
directdirected
inspectinspected
wishwished
discussdiscussed

If a verb is three letters in length and ends in a consonant, you will usually need to double the consonant before you add ‘-ed’. For example:

VerbPast tense
hughugged
tagtagged
pinpinned
napnapped
tiptipped

Some verbs have irregular spellings in the past tense. You might need to invent mnemonics to remember these. For example:

VerbPast tense
thinkthought
buybought
runran
gowent
forgetforgot

-ing forms of verbs

If you’re using the –ing form of a verb – walking, running, seeing – the rules are similar to those for past tense.

If the word ends in a consonant, you can usually simply add ‘–ing’.

Verb‘-ing’ form
walkwalking
directdirecting
inspectinspecting
wishwishing
discussdiscussing

If a verb is three letters in length and ends in a consonant, you will usually need to double the consonant before you add ‘-ing. For example:

Verb‘-ing’ form
hughugging
tagtagging
pinpinning
napnapping
tiptipping

Another rule which may help is to know that when changing a verb, words that originally end in an 'e' (such as ‘have’) will lose that 'e' when you add 'ing', (‘having’).

Verb‘-ing’ form
savesaving
bakebaking
wastewasting
raceracing
reservereserving

Silent letters

Some words contain silent letters. These are not spoken aloud. For example:

Silent w - wrong, write, wrap, wrist

Silent b - climb, comb, thumb, lamb

Silent k - knowledge, knuckle, knee, knife

Some commonly misspelt words

Look at the list of commonly misspelt words and notice those that you are less confident about. Spend some time coming up with a mnemonic to remember the spelling and practise using the words when you can:

Word list A-EWord list F-Z
abandoningfierce
acceptableforeign
accommodationindependent
appreciationinteresting
argumentinvincible
assessmentjealous
atmosphereknowledge
beginningliaison
believelistening
collectablemischief
compromisingnegligible
concentrationnoticeable
conclusionpermanent
confirmingproportion
contentmentreceive
daughtervisible
developmentweird
evaluation
explanation
curriculum-key-fact
It’s better to learn one or two a day than all of them at once!