What Are the Most Useful Rules of Spelling and Pronunciation?

After Riggs students can write and read 55 (of 71) spelling patterns (taught in the first few weeks of instruction), they start applying these patterns to the spelling of whole English words. As they begin to analyze about six words per day, their teachers introduce them to the rules that govern the spellings and pronunciations of English words (see below for the 47 rules taught). They call their students' attention to the rules, explicitly telling them the rule.

As each rule is encountered, students practice saying the rule aloud (to aid the memory). For example, vowels a, e, o, and u usually say their names, or long sounds, at the end of a syllable (these are "open syllables"). When learning the first Riggs spelling word, me, Riggs students are taught to underline the e (to aid the memory), and they are taught to say the rule that governs the pronunciation of single vowels that are used at the ends of syllables: "Vowels a, e, o, and u usually say long 'a', 'e', 'o', and 'u' at the end of a syllable." (See vowel rules below.) Since this rule comes up often in commonly-used words (me, no, so, go, he, she, we, etc.), and since Riggs students study the spellings of commonly-used words, Riggs students have many opportunities to practice this helpful rule. 

47 Rules of Spelling (Orthography) and Pronunciation (Orthoepy)


  1. The letter q is always followed by the letter u [quiet]
  2. /c/ before e, i or y says ‘s.' [chance, icing, icy]
  3. /g/ before e, i or y may say ‘j.' [germ, giant, gym]
  4. We often double l, f and s following a single vowel at the end of a one-syllable word. [ball, off, miss]
  5. Two-letter ‘k' (ck) is used only after a single vowel which says short ‘a' - ‘e' - ‘i' - ‘o' - ‘u' [pack, peck, pick, pock, puck]
  6. Three-letter 'j' (dge) is used only after a single vowel which says short ‘a' - ‘e' - ‘i' - ‘o' - ‘u' [badge, ledge, ridge, lodge, fudge]
  7. The letter z, never s, is used to say ‘z' at the beginning of a base word. [zoo]
  8. The letter s never follows x.
  9. Double consonants within words of more than one syllable should both be sounded for spelling. [hap-py, puz-zle, dad-dy, run-ning]
  10. s-h is used to say ‘sh' at the beginning of a word, at the end of a syllable, but not at the beginning of most syllables after the first one (except for the ending ship). [she, wish, friend-ship]
  11. t-i, s-i, and c-i are used to say ‘sh' at the beginning of any syllable after the first one. [na-tion, man-sion, fa-cial]
  12. s-i is used to say ‘sh' when the syllable before it [ses-sion] or the base word ends in an -s [tense/ten-sion]; s-i can say its voiced ‘zh' sound when s is between two vowels. [vision]


  1. Vowels a, e, o, u usually say ‘a' - ‘e' - ‘o' - ‘u' at the end of a syllable. [pa per, be gin, o pen, u nit]
  2. Vowels i and o may say ‘i' and ‘o' when followed by two consonants. [find, old]
  3. Vowels i and y may say [short i] at the end of a syllable [fam-i-ly, bi-cy-cle], but usually say ‘i' [long] or ‘e' [long] [pi-an-o, ba-by, by, fi-nal]
  4. Vowel y, not i, is used at the end of English words. [by, guy]
  5. Base words do not end with the letter a saying long ‘a' (except for the article a); a-y is used most often. [play]
  6. o-r may say ‘er' when w comes before the o-r. [works]
  7. We use ei after c [receipt], if we say long a [veil], and in some exceptions. [neither, foreign, sovereign, seized, counterfeit, forfeited, leisure, either, weird, heifer, protein, height, feisty, stein, weir, seismograph, sheik, kaleidoscope, Geiger counter, etc.] This is not an exhaustive list of exceptions.
  8. Silent final e's:

  • Job 1. Silent final e lets the vowel say its name. [time]
  • Job 2. English words do not end with v or u. [have, value]
  • Job 3. Silent final e lets c and g say their second sounds. [chance, charge]
  • Job 4. English syllables must have a written vowel. [ta ble]
  • Job 5. No job e [none of the above, e.g., are, horse]


  1. The plural of most nouns is formed by adding s. [boys, cats, dogs]
  2. Nouns ending with the sounds of s, x, z, ch, sh or 'j' form their plurals by adding e-s. [fox-es, bush-es, boss-es]
  3. Nouns ending in y after a vowel form their plurals by adding s. [monkey/monkeys]
  4. Nouns ending in y after a consonant form their plurals by changing y to i and adding e-s. [puppy/puppies]
  5. Nouns ending in o after a vowel form their plurals by adding s. [patio/patios]
  6. Nouns ending in o after a consonant usually form their plurals by adding e-s [he ro/he roes] B except some musical terms. [pi an o/pi an os]
  7. Most nouns ending in f and f-e form their plurals by adding s [belief / beliefs]; some change f to v and add e-s. [wolf /wolves, wife /wives]
  8. Most verbs form their third person, present, singular as if they were nouns becoming plurals. [cuts, raises, dresses, fixes, fizzes, catches, pushes, plays, carries, goes]



  1. Alltill and full are usually written with one l when added to another syllable. [almost, until, careful]
  2. The past tense ending e-d says ‘d' or ‘t' after words that do not end with d or t [warmed, baked]; otherwise e-d forms a second syllable. [grad ed]
  3. Final y is changed to i before a suffix that does not begin with i. [cry, cried, cry ing]
  4. When adding a consonant suffix, silent final e words usually keep the e [safe ty, shame less, move ment], but not always. [wis dom, tru ly, ninth]
  5. When adding a vowel suffix, silent final e words are written without the e. [time, timing]
  6. When adding a vowel suffix to a one-syllable word ending with one short vowel and one consonant [hop], double the final consonant. [hopping]
  7. When adding a vowel suffix to a two-syllable word ending with one short vowel and one consonant, double the final consonant if the accent is on the last syllable [admit´, admitted] unless the suffix throws the accent back to the first syllable. [refer, referred, ref´er ence; confer´, conferred, con´ fer ence]
  8. When prefixes dis, mis and un are added to base words beginning with the same letter with which the prefix ends, this letter will be doubled. [unnecessary, dissolve, misspell]


  1. A one-syllable word is never divided. [sun, dog, gun, boat, air, good, plane, night, fish]
  2. A compound word is divided between the words that make the compound word. [shot-gun, sun-set, air-plane, good-night]
  3. Divide between two consonants [hap-py, per-haps] unless the consonants form a digraph and are sounded together. [ma-chine, ele-phant]
  4. When a word has an affix, it is usually divided between the base and the affix. [re-run, soft-ness, cry-ing]
  5. When a single consonant comes between two vowels, it is usually divided after the consonant if the first vowel is short. [clev-er, lem-on, rob-in]
  6. When a single consonant comes between two vowels, it is usually divided before the consonant if the first vowel is long. [mu-sic, o-pen, pa-per]
  7. Divide between two vowels when they are sounded separately. [di-et, cru-el]
  8. Vowels that are sounded alone form their own syllable. [dis-o-bey, a-live, u-ni-form]
  9. When a word ends in l-e preceded by a consonant, divide before the consonant. [tur-tle, ca-ble, un-cle]


  1. Capitalize words which are the individual names or titles of people, of places, of books, of days and months, etc. [Bill, Chief Sitting Bull, New York, Amazon River, Call of the Wild, Sunday, June]
  2. An apostrophe takes the place of missing letters in a contraction. [it is/it's; she is/she's; cannot/can't]
  3. An apostrophe shows ownership or possession [Mary's coat, boys' coats], but is never used with possessive pronouns. [my, mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs, its, whose]



  • Say all sounds of phonograms written between forward slashes /o/.
  • Say names of single or hyphenated letters shown in bold (l, f, s; s-i, l-e).
  • Say the sound of phonograms within quotation marks ("ck"), with mnemonic markings, or with diacritical dictionary markings (with or without quotation marks).
  • Do not say anything shown in brackets [dge; cry crying] when teaching the rules. These are illustration words for the teacher's use only.
  • Do not teach rule numbers to students; they must articulate the rule itself as each is applied in dictated spelling, reading, blending and decoding lessons.

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