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Spelling rules - i before e except after c, exceptions, c sounds like sh, ei sounds like long a, ei sounds like short e for reading lessons

Spelling rules for ch, tch, ck, k, oi, oy, ou, ow, ie, ei

Spelling words in English is not as easy as ABC. It involves learning letter sounds and rules for blending them, forming words and changing their meaning to fit into sentences. A learner must read a lot of books, articles, newspapers and magazines written in English to get familiar with these rules.

A learner should not rely on information posted on social media, phone texts and comics to learn English spelling rules. These spellings are usually suited for informal communication while the English spelling of words is obscured. Here are some common spelling rules that learners should know.

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Spelling rules for consonant sounds

CH starts a word – champ, check, chip, choose, chump

CH ends a word after a consonant – branch, perch, pinch, orchard, lunch

TCH ends a word after a vowel – watch, fetch, snitch, notch, clutch

CK ends a word after a short vowel – back, deck, sick, clock, duck

K ends a word after a consonant i.e. l, r, s, w – walk, perk, risk, hawk

F, L and S are doubled in words with one syllable – staff, wall, pass

Rules for vowel sounds

‘y’ as long ‘i’ and long ‘e’

‘y’ sounds like long ‘i’ at the end of a word with no other vowel. e.g. shy, dry, sty, fly

It sounds like long ‘e’ in an unstressed syllable e.g. family, lucky, study, key

‘oi’ or ‘oy’

‘oi’ is used in the middle of words e.g. toil, boil and ‘oy’ is used at the end of words. e.g. toy, boy

‘ou’ or ‘ow’

The letters ‘ou’ are used in the middle of words e.g. house, loud and ‘ow’ are used at the end of words. e.g. how, allow

Exception to the rule:

When a word ends in ‘l’ or ‘n’, use ‘ow’ in the middle. e.g. prowl, town

‘i’ before ‘e’ or ‘e’ before ‘i’

‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ is the general rule for most words in English. e.g. friend, shield, achieve, ceiling, perceive, conceit

Exceptions to the rule:

‘i’ before ‘e’ when:

‘c’ sounds like ‘sh’. e.g. ancient, efficient, deficient, proficient

‘ie’ sounds like long ‘i’ and short ‘e’. e.g. science, society, anxiety

‘e’ before ‘i’ when ‘ei’ sounds like:

‘ei’ sounds like long ‘a’. e.g. weight, neighbour, vein, freight, foreign

long ‘e’. e.g. seize, either, neither

long ‘i’. e.g. height

short ‘e’. e.g. weird, their, leisure

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See also:

Vowels: A simple guide on syllables, digraphs, diphthongs, trigraphs, long, short and silent

Consonants – digraphs, trigraphs, hard, soft, blends, silent sounds

Digraph: Improve spelling with 22 word lists of 2-letter graphemes

Trigraph: Spell better with 18 word lists of 3-letter graphemes

Spell words easier with lists of 4 grapheme types

4 Letters – one sound: Improve spelling with 5 word lists of 4-letter graphemes

Improve reading skills with this phoneme and grapheme guide

Alphabet: 7 simple things to know about letters and sounds

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