Glossary of Terms Relating to Using Conventions of Standard English: Spelling

  • Vowels: The letters A, E, I, O, U and sometimes W and Y
  • Semivowels: W and Y. They are referred to as semivowels because they can serve as consonants as well as vowels
  • Consonants: All the letters of the 26 letter alphabet other than the vowels which are A, E, I, O, U and sometimes W and Y.
  • The I Before E Spelling Rule or Guideline: I before E except after C or when sounding like A as in neighbor and weigh.
  • The Drop the Final Vowel When the Word Ends With a Vowel and the Suffix Begins With a Vowel Spelling Rule or Guideline: This rule eliminates double vowels in words that have a suffix.
  • The Change the Final Y to I Spelling Rule or Guideline: Addresses the need to change a Y to an I when a root of a word ends in a Y that is preceded by or follows a consonant EXCEPT when the suffix begins with an I, like the suffix ING.
  • The Double the Final Consonant Spelling Rule or Guideline: You double the final consonant in single syllable words that have a single vowel before that consonant and that are also followed by a suffix
  • The Singular to the Plural Spelling Rules or Guidelines: Most singular forms of words are transformed into plural form of words by simply adding an "S".
  • The Singular to the Plural Spelling Rules or Guidelines By Adding "ES": You must add ES when the singular form of the word ends in a S, CH, SH, Z, or X.
  • The Singular to the Plural Spelling Rules or Guidelines By Adding "VES": You must change the F or FE at the end of a word to VES when transforming a singular word into its plural form
  • Homophones: Words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings.
  • Homographs: Words that look the same and are spelled the same (homo) but have two distinctly different meanings and that are pronounced differently.
  • Digraphs: A combination of two letters that take on a unique and different sound than would be expected.

Introduction to Spelling

Many say that the English language is the most difficult of all languages. In terms of spelling and grammar, it probably is.

In this section of your TEAS review we will present some common spelling rules and guidelines, as well as many commonly and frequently occurring spelling errors. Because it is well beyond the scope of this TEAS review to provide a complete course on spelling all possible words, the focus of this section is to present common spelling rules, and examples, as well as commonly occurring spelling errors and how to prevent the pitfalls of misspelling.

Letters: Vowels and Consonants

The alphabet has 26 letters that consist of vowels and consonants. Z is the least commonly and frequently used letter and E is the most commonly and frequently used letter.

The vowels are A, E, I, O, U and sometimes W and Y. W and Y are referred to as semivowels because they can serve as consonants as well as vowels.

The letters of the alphabet, other than A, E, I, O, U and sometimes W and Y, are consonants.

Vowels

Vowels have long and short sounds. The long sound of vowels is sounds that sound precisely like the letter itself. For example, the long sound of A is the same as saying the letter A (ay) and the short sounds of vowels are different. Additionally, some vowels like E used at the end of a word are silent.

Here are some examples of vowels that have a long sound, a short sound or are silent.

  • The word SOME has a short sound for O and the E at the end of the word is silent.
  • The word CAPE has a long sound for A and the E at the end of the word is silent.
  • The word PET has a short sound for E.
  • The word LIT has a short sound for I.
  • The word EVER has a short sound for the first E and a short sound for the second E.

Consonants, unlike vowels, do not have long and short sounds. Each consonant has a unique sound unless it is combined with another letter as occurs with TH in the word NINTH. The TH in this word is different from the single sound for T and H; the TH sound like "thh". Digraphs such as TH, CH, SH, WH and PH have special sounds and spelling. More information about digraphs will be discussed below.

The I Before E Spelling Rule or Guideline

The I Before E Spelling Rule or Guideline is the one spelling guideline that people remember the most.

This rule is "I before E except after C or when sounding like A as in neighbor and weigh.

Here are some words that follow the "I before E" part of this spelling rule or guideline:

  • Beliefs
  • Believe
  • Believer
  • Relief
  • Siege
  • Relieve

Here are some words that follow the "I before E except after C" part of this spelling rule or guideline:

  • Receive
  • Receipt
  • Deceit
  • Ceiling
  • Perceive
  • Deceive

Here are some words that follow the "I before E except… when sounding like A as in neighbor and weigh" part of this spelling rule or guideline:

  • Neighbor
  • Freight
  • Height
  • Reign
  • Weight

The Drop the Final Vowel When the Word Ends With a Vowel and the Suffix Begins With a Vowel Spelling Rule or Guideline

The Drop the Final Vowel When the Word Ends With a Vowel and the Suffix Begins With a Vowel Spelling Rule or Guideline eliminates double vowels in words that have a suffix.

For example, when you add the suffix ING to the word FACE, the correct spelling is FACING and NOT FACEING with the improper use of double vowels like E and I.

Here are some other examples that demonstrate the Drop the Final Vowel When the Word Ends With a Vowel and the Suffix Begins With a Vowel Spelling Rule or Guideline:

  • PACE + ING: Pacing and not paceing
  • MAKING + ING: Making and not makeing.
  • REDUCE + IBLE: Reducible and not reduceible.
  • ERASE + ABLE: Erasable and not eraseable
  • CONDENSE + ING: Condensing and not condenseing

The obvious opposite or converse rule to the Drop the Final Vowel When the Word Ends With a Vowel and the Suffix Begins With a Vowel Spelling Rule or Guideline is to maintain the final consonant when a suffix is added to a word that ends in a consonant.

Here are some examples of maintaining and keeping the final consonant of a word when a suffix is added to the word:

  • ARRANGE + MENT: Arrangement and not arrangment
  • ENGAGE + MENT: Engagement and not engagment
  • MEEK + LY: Meekly and not
  • SOFT + LY: Softly
  • LIKE + NESS: Likeness and not likness
  • LOUD + LY: Loudness

Although many words follow the Drop the Final Vowel When the Word Ends With a Vowel and the Suffix Begins With a Vowel Spelling Rule or Guideline, there are some exceptions where the final vowel of the word is maintained and kept despite the fact that the word is followed with a suffix that begins with a vowel.

Below are some exceptions to the Drop the Final Vowel When the Word Ends With a Vowel and the Suffix Begins With a Vowel Spelling Rule or Guideline:

  • MAKE + ABLE: Makeable and not makable
  • PEACE + ABLY: Peaceably and not peacably

The Change the Final Y to I Spelling Rule or Guideline

The Change the Final Y to I Spelling Rule or Guideline addresses the need to change a Y to an I when a root of a word ends in a Y that is preceded by or follows a consonant. In this case, the suffix is added to the word EXCEPT when the suffix begins with an I, like the suffix ING.

Examples of words that have a root of the word ending in Y preceded by a consonant are:

  • Fantasy where the word ends in a Y and this Y follows the consonant S
  • Merry where the word ends in a Y and this Y follows the consonant R
  • Happy where the word ends in a Y and this Y follows the consonant P
  • Beauty where the word ends in a Y and this Y follows the consonant T
  • Fancy where the word ends in a Y and this Y follows the consonant C

Using the same words as above and adding a suffix applying and using the Change the Final Y to I Spelling Rule or Guideline is shown below.

  • Fantasy + FUL: Fantasiful and not fantasyful
  • Merry + MENT: Merriment and not merryment
  • Happy + NESS: Happiness and not happyness
  • Beauty + FUL: Beautiful and not beautyful
  • Fancy + FUL: Fanciful and not fancyful
  • Mercy + FUL: Merciful and not mercyful

As stated above, the Change the Final Y to I Spelling Rule or Guideline is NOT followed when the suffix added to the word starts with an "I". In these cases, the Y is retained and kept and the suffix is added to the entire word.

Here are some examples of these exceptions to the rule:

  • Say + ING: Saying and not saing
  • Pray + ING: Praying and not praing
  • Play + ING: Playing and not plaing
  • Stray + ING: Straying and not straing
  • Lay + ING: Laying and not laing
  • Party + ING: Partying and not parting

The Double the Final Consonant Spelling Rule or Guideline

You double the final consonant in single syllable words that have a single vowel before that consonant and that are also followed by a suffix.

Examples of single syllable words that have a single vowel before that consonant include words such as:

  • Pet
  • Stop
  • Set
  • Hop
  • Bat
  • Lob
  • Bet

Using the same words as listed above, the addition of a suffix mandates that you double the final consonant of these single syllable words and then add the suffix.

Here are some examples:

  • PET + ING: Petting and not peting (The t in the word pet is doubled.)
  • SHOP + ING: Shopping and not shoping (The p in the word shop is doubled.)
  • SET + ING: Setting and not seting (The t in the word set is doubled.)
  • HOP + ING: Hopping and not hoping (The p in the word hop is doubled.)
  • BAT + ER: Batter and not bater (The t in the word bat is doubled.)
  • LOB + ING: Lobbing and not lobing (The b in the word lob is doubled.)
  • BET + ER: Better and not beter (The t in the word bet is doubled)

The Singular to the Plural Spelling Rules or Guidelines

Most singular forms of words are transformed into plural form of words by simply adding an "S".

Here are some examples:

  • Singular: Game
    Plural: Games
  • Singular: Examination
    Plural: Examinations
  • Singular: Problem
    Plural: Problems
  • Singular: Language
    Plural: Languages
  • Singular: Name
    Plural: Names

Although most singular forms of words are transformed into plural form of words by simply adding an "S", there are exceptions to this rule. Some of the exceptions to this rule are:

  • You must add ES when the singular form of the word ends in a S, CH, SH, Z, or X
  • You must change the F or FE at the end of a word to VES when transforming a singular word into its plural form

Here are some examples of the first rule above:

  • Singular: Church
    Plural: Churches
  • Singular: Ax
    Plural: Axes
  • Singular: Hunch
    Plural: Hunches
  • Singular: Munch
    Plural: Munches
  • Singular: Mash
    Plural: Mashes
  • Singular: Quiz
    Plural: Quizzes (The Z is also doubled.)

Here are some examples of when you must change the F or FE at the end of a word to VES when transforming a singular word into its plural form:

  • Singular: Self
    Plural: Selves
  • Singular: Them self
    Plural: Themselves
  • Singular: Elf
    Plural: Elves
  • Singular: Shelf
    Plural: Shelves

Homophones

As the name suggests, homophones are words that sound (phone) the same (homo) but are spelled differently and have different meanings. They are NOT words that have a same meaning but just with a different spelling. Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings.

The following are frequently used homophones:

  • Homophones: Ate and eight
  • Homophones: Hair and hare
  • Homophones: Complementary and complimentary
  • Homophones: Complement and compliment
  • Homophones: Do and dew
  • Homophones: Its and it's
  • Homophones: Sight and site
  • Homophones: Raise and rays and raze
  • Homophones: Bare and bear
  • Homophones: So and sew and sow
  • Homophones: Fair and fare
  • Homophones: Seam and seem
  • Homophones: Hole and whole
  • Homophones: Capital and capitol
  • Homophones: The and thee
  • Homophones: To, two and too
  • Homophones: Their, there, they're

Homophones, unlike homographs, are easier to detect and have a known meaning in the written word rather than with oral usage because homophones are spelled differently but they sound the same so auditory discernment is not possible.

Understanding the meaning of a spoken homophone requires that you place the homophone in context with the sentences that are being orally expressed. For example, when a person tells you that the "whole project is going to be abandoned because of its excessive costs", you should know that the word "whole" means entire and that the entire project will be abandoned because of the meaning of "whole" in the context of the other spoken words means entire and not an indentation or broken surface of something, such as the 13th hole of the golf course or a hole in a piece of paper.

The definitions of the homophones listed above are:

  • Homophones: Ate and eight

Meaning of ate: The past tense of eat (A verb)

Meaning of eight: The number after seven (A noun)

Using ate in a sentence: He ate a full meal this morning.

Using eight in a sentence: Tom lost 2 dollars so he was left with only eight dollars.

  • Homophones: Hair and hare

Meaning of hair: The strands of biological material that is found on the head, arms and other parts of the body (A noun)

Meaning of hare: A rabbit (A noun)

Using hair in a sentence: She has beautiful blond hair.

Using hare in a sentence: The hare scampered into the woods.

  • Homophones: Complementary and complimentary

Meaning of complement: To complete (A verb)

Meaning of compliment: Favorable comment (A noun)

Using complement in a sentence: A 30 degree angle complements a 60 degree angle because, when added together, they form a 90 degree angle.

Using compliment in a sentence: It was so nice to hear a compliment from my husband about my new dress.

  • Homophones: Do and dew

Meaning of do: The present tense of an action (A verb)

Meaning of dew: A light cover of precipitation typically seen in the early morning (A noun)

Using do in a sentence: During the wedding ceremony, the groom said, "I do".

Using dew in a sentence: A fine cover of dew was over all of the fields early this morning.

  • Homophones: Its and it's

Meaning of its: Belonging to it; possession (pronoun)

Meaning of it's: The contraction for it is (Noun and a verb combination)

Using its in a sentence: That plant has lost some of its leaves.

Using it's in a sentence: It's a beautiful day today.

  • Homophones: Sight, site and cite

Meaning of sight: The ability to see (A noun)

Meaning of site: Place or location (A noun)

Meaning of cite: To credit an author for their thoughts when you are composing a written document like a research paper

Using sight in a sentence: At 87, my father is starting to lose his sight.

Using site in a sentence: That is the site where the new home is going to be built.

Using cite in a sentence: The student did not properly cite the source using MLA style standard.

  • Homophones: Raise and rays and raze

Meaning of raise: To elevate and lift (A verb), an increase in salary (A noun)

Meaning of rays: A stream or lines of light (A noun)

Meaning of raze: Destroy or abolish (A verb)

Using raise in a sentence: My husband finally got a raise!

Using rays in a sentence: The sun's rays were comforting.

Using raze in a sentence: That enemy can raze that city with a nuclear bomb.

  • Homophones: Bare and bear

Meaning of bare: Naked and without clothing (An adjective)

Meaning of bear: A large mammal

Using bare in a sentence: The bare body was found in the woods near the lake.

Using bear in a sentence: A big brown bear roamed the Smoky mountains near homes.

  • Homophones: So and sew and sow

Meaning of so: In a manner that is suggested (An adverb); a result of some action (A conjunction)

Meaning of sew: To join or repair something with stitches (A verb)

Meaning of sow: To plant (A verb)

Using so in a sentence: He was late so we left without him.

Using sew in a sentence: His mother will sew that ripped hem on your dress in the morning.

Using sow in a sentence: Farmers are usually ready to begin to sow their fields in the early spring.

  • Homophones: Fair and fare

Meaning of fair: A periodic event in a community (A noun); equal and equitable treatment (Adjective)

Meaning of fare: An admission or a toll of some sort

Using fair in a sentence: He is always fair to others. The family went to the state fair.

Using fare in a sentence: The fare for this train is $2.

  • Homophones: Seam and seem

Meaning of seam: The point at which things are joined together (A noun)

Meaning of seem: Having the appearance of something (A verb)

Using seam in a sentence: His mother will mend the torn seam in his shirt as soon as she gets home.

Using seem in a sentence: It will seem like winter tomorrow because the temperature will drop significantly.

  • Homophones: Main and mane

Meaning of main: An important thing (An adjective)

Meaning of mane: The hair found on a horse's upper neck (A noun)

Using seam in a sentence: The main idea of an essay is also called the thesis or thesis statement.

Using mane in a sentence: Ginger, our pet horse, has a magnificent golden chestnut color mane.

  • Homophones: Hole and whole

Meaning of hole: A hollow place or structure (A noun)

Meaning of whole: An entire thing (A noun)

Using hole in a sentence: My friend dug a hole for a new tree that he just purchases.

Using whole in a sentence: Whole numbers are numbers greater than zero.

  • Homophones: Capital and capitol

Meaning of capital: Major (An adjective); the place where the head of a major government is (A noun); wealth and monetary resources (A noun)

Meaning of capitol: The building where a major city or nation houses its government

Using capital in a sentence: He was accused of capital murder for the cold blooded murder of that entire family; Philadelphia is the historical capital of Pennsylvania; Wall Street manages a great amount of capital on a daily basis.

Using capitol in a sentence: Tennessee's capitol is beautiful and historic in terms of its architecture and its preservation of art that reflects the changes that occurred in our nation after the Civil War.

  • Homophones: The and thee

Meaning of the: An article which is a part of speech to specify and describe a single thing

Meaning of thee: You in the Biblical sense

Using the in a sentence: The red car is the one that she really to purchase.

Using thee in a sentence: Come thee.

Homographs

Homographs are words that, as the name suggests, look the same and are spelled (graph) the same (homo) but have two distinctly different meanings and that are either pronounced differently or pronounced the same. For obvious reasons, these words are.

Here are some examples of homographs that are frequently used:

  • Homographs: Duck and duck
  • Homographs: Tear and tear
  • Homographs: Minute and minute
  • Homographs: Pile and pile
  • Homographs: Bow and bow
  • Homographs: Content and content
  • Homographs: Bear and bear
  • Homographs: Lead and lead
  • Homographs: Fair and fair
  • Homographs: Part and part
  • Homographs: Capital and capital
  • Homographs: Digest and digest
  • Homographs: Sentence and sentence

Understanding the meaning of a spoken homophone requires that you place the homophone in context with the sentences that is being orally expressed and expressed in the written word. For example, when a person tells you or you read that "the purpose of the gastrointestinal system is to digest food", you should know that the word "digest" means to physiologically process food and not a condensed and shorten a book in a digest.

  • Homographs: Duck and duck

Meaning of duck: A bird that quacks (A noun)

Meaning of duck: To crouch down to avoid something (A verb)

Using duck in a sentence as a noun: The toddler laughed when she saw the duck waddle around the farm.

Using duck in a sentence as a verb: He ducked the golf ball that was headed toward him.

  • Homographs: Tear and tear

Meaning of tear: The secretion of a small amount of liquid from the lacrimal glands when a person is sad and unhappy (A noun)

Meaning of tear: A rip (A noun), to rip (A verb)

Using tear in a sentence as a noun: The tears flowed when they heard of Terry's death.

Using tear in a sentence as another noun and as a verb: There was a tear in the clothing (A noun); The toddler just loves to tear up paper. (A verb)

  • Homographs: Minute and minute

Meaning of minute: Small and tiny (An adjective)

Meaning of minute: A unit of time (A noun)

Using in a sentence as an adjective: Atoms are minute particles of matter.

Using in a sentence as a noun: There are 60 minutes in one hour.

  • Homographs: Pile and pile

Meaning of pile: To stack up (A noun)

Meaning of pile: The texture of a fabric (A noun)

Using pile sentence as a noun: There was a pile of books in the corner of the room.

Using in a sentence as another noun: The pile of that fabric was in one direction.

  • Homographs: Bow and bow

Meaning of bow: A decorative adornment (A noun)

Meaning of bow: To bend over (A verb)

Using bow in a sentence as a noun: She makes gorgeous bows for Christmas gifts.

Using bow in a sentence as a verb: The people bow in the presence of the Pope.

  • Homographs: Content and content

Meaning of content: Included material (A noun)

Meaning of content: Satisfied (An adjective)

Using content in a sentence as a noun: The content of the TEAS review has been excellent.

Using content in a sentence as an adjective: She was content when she finally solved those problems.

  • Homographs: Bear and bear

Meaning of bear: A large mammal (A noun)

Meaning of bear: To carry (A verb)

Using bear in a sentence as a noun: A vicious bear attacked the young child.

Using bear in a sentence as a verb: That woman has a heavy load to bear.

  • Homographs: Lead and lead

Meaning of lead: A metal (A noun)

Meaning of lead: To direct (A verb)

Using lead in a sentence as a noun: Lead poisoning is a serious health related problem.

Using lead in a sentence as a verb: The commander has shown a long and sustained record of being able to lead the troops.

  • Homographs: Fair and fair

Meaning of fair: A festive event in a community (A noun)

Meaning of fair: Treating people in an equal and equitable manner (An adjective)

Using fair in a sentence as a noun: The entire family was dressed and ready to enjoy a day at the State Fair.

Using fair in a sentence as an adjective: Being fair to all people is an ethical and moral principle.

  • Homographs: Part and part

Meaning of part: A section of the whole (A noun)

Meaning of part: To separate (A verb)

Using part in a sentence as a noun: She ate part of the pizza pie.

Using part in a sentence as a verb: It was time for him to part from the group.

  • Homographs: Capital and capital

Meaning of capital: Major and of a high level (An adjective)

Meaning of capital: Wealth; the size and appearance of a letter; the place where the head of a major movement is. (Nouns)

Using capital in a sentence as an adjective: He was accused and convicted of capital murder.

Using capital in a sentence as a noun: The wealthy are blessed with capital; A is a capital letter and a is a lower case letter; The capital is Atlanta.

  • Homographs: Digest and digest

Meaning of digest: To physiologically process food; to condense and shorten (Verbs)

Meaning of digest: A condensed and shortened form (A noun)

Using digest in a sentence as a verb: The gastrointestinal tract digests food; the book was digested into its shorter form.

Using digest in a sentence as a noun: Reader's Digest is a very popular publication for those who like to read.

  • Homographs: Sentence and sentence

Meaning of sentence: A grammatical part of the English language (A noun)

Meaning of sentence: A court punishment (A noun)

Using sentence in a sentence as a noun: The court sentenced that mass murderer to a life sentence without the possibility of parole; A sentence usually consists of a subject and a verb.

Digraphs

Digraphs are a combination of two letters that take on a unique and different sound than would be expected if you sounded out each of these letters alone.

Some commonly occurring digraphs include:

  • th
  • ch
  • sh
  • ph
  • wh
  • gh

Examples of words with the "th" digraph are:

  • With
  • Though
  • Width
  • Thought
  • Then

Examples of words with the "ch" digraph are:

  • Church
  • Chug
  • Inch
  • Chain
  • Munch

Examples of words with the "sh" digraph are:

  • Share
  • She
  • Hush
  • Mush
  • Shamrock

Examples of words with the "ph" digraph are:

  • Telephone
  • Homophone
  • Morph
  • Phonograph
  • Phosphate

Examples of words with the "wh" digraph are:

  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Wither
  • Whether

Examples of words with the "gh" digraph, which is pronounced like the sound of "f" are:

  • Laugh
  • Cough
  • Ghost
  • Ghetto
  • Ghoul

RELATED TEAS CONVENTIONS OF STANDARD ENGLISH CONTENT:

Alene Burke

Alene Burke

Alene Burke RN, MSN is a nationally recognized nursing educator. She began her work career as an elementary school teacher in New York City and later attended Queensborough Community College for her associate degree in nursing. She worked as a registered nurse in the critical care area of a local community hospital and, at this time, she was committed to become a nursing educator. She got her bachelor’s of science in nursing with Excelsior College, a part of the New York State University and immediately upon graduation she began graduate school at Adelphi University on Long Island, New York. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Adelphi with a double masters degree in both Nursing Education and Nursing Administration and immediately began the PhD in nursing coursework at the same university. She has authored hundreds of courses for healthcare professionals including nurses, she serves as a nurse consultant for healthcare facilities and private corporations, she is also an approved provider of continuing education for nurses and other disciplines and has also served as a member of the American Nurses Association’s task force on competency and education for the nursing team members.
Alene Burke

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