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Part 4 – Drop, swop and double

Guidance is provided about the more complicated rules, described as ‘Drop, swop and double’ by Jennifer Chew, in her pamphlet ‘Spelling Rules O. K.’

Part 4: Drop, swop and double

 

Jennifer Chew calls the following three rules ‘drop, swop and double’ in her booklet Spelling Rules…O.K. This useful booklet is available on the Reading Reform Foundation’s website at http://www.rrf.org.uk/pdf/spelling-rules-ok.pdf, or it can be downloaded from ‘Free Materials’ in the Resources section. It is well worth reading. These three rules, which are usually introduced after the teaching in Steps 1 to 5, are particularly useful and reliable when adding suffixes to words. A suffix is a letter or letters that is added to the end of a word, such as the ‹ing› in swimming, ‹ed› in clapped, ‹y› in funny, ‹er› in slimmer, and ‹est› in wettest. These suffixes all start with a vowel, but others begin with a consonant, such as the ‹ment› in enjoyment, ‹ful› in faithful, ‹ly› in hardly, ‹less› in helpless, and ‹ness› in staleness.

 

Rule 1: Drop (for words ending in a silent ‹e›)

 

  • If the suffix you are adding starts with a vowel, drop the ‹e›, as in hope/hoping and like/liked.
  • However, if the suffix starts with a consonant, do not drop the ‹e›, as in fate/fateful and excite/excitement.
  • Also do not drop the ‹e› when it is needed to make the soft ‹c› or soft ‹g› spelling, as in notice/noticeable and change/changeable.
  • When making an adverb by adding ‹ly› to an adjective ending in ‹le›, drop the ‹le› before adding the ‹ly›, as in gentle/gently.

 

Rule 2: Swop (for words ending in ‹y›)

 

In phonics, a ‹y› often takes the place of an ‹i› at the end of a root word, as explained in Step 4. In the word happy, for example, the ‹i› does not like to go on the end, and so ‹y› takes its place. But what happens when we want to make the word longer? Let us look at some examples:

  • When a suffix is added to a word like happy, the ‹i› is no longer on the end and so it comes back, as in happiness, happily and happier.
  • The same applies to plurals, as in pony/ponies and ruby/ rubies.
  • However, if the suffix being added is ‹ing›, the rule does not apply. This is because English words do not like having two ‹i›s together and so it becomes hurrying and not hurriing.
  • Another exception is when the letter before the ‹y› is a vowel. For example, when a suffix is added to the root word enjoy, the ‹y› is not swopped with ‹i›, as can be seen in enjoyed and This exception also applies when making plurals, as in donkey/donkeys.

 

NB: The word swop can also be spelt ‘swap’. This spelling pattern, in which the ‹w› affects the ‹a› so that is has an /o/ sound, was discussed earlier in Part 3.

 

 

Rule 3: Double (for shorter words of one or two syllables)

 

The doubling rule is explained earlier in relation to words ending in /ool/ and also in Step 5, when adding the suffixes ‹ing›, ‹ed›, ‹y›, ‹er› and ‹est›.  It applies mostly to shorter words of one or two syllables.

 

  • When adding a suffix that starts with a vowel to a word that has a short vowel and only one consonant at the end, the consonant needs to be doubled, as in run/running, spot/spotted, fun/funny, thin/thinner and hot/hottest.
  • However, if there are already two consonants after the short vowel, no doubling is needed, as in the word spending. There is also no need to double the consonant if the vowel is not short, as in training and burning.

 

At a later stage, the children can be taught the rules linked to where the stress comes in more complicated words. Jennifer Chew clearly explains this in her booklet.

 

There is often a pattern to spelling. It does not work all the time, but we tend to use the patterns to help us spell. For instance, there are many two-syllable words that end with ‹y› and ‹er› that have not had a suffix added to them, but they still tend to follow the suffix-doubling rule: for example, two consonants follow a short vowel in better, happy and penny, but when the vowel is long, as in farmer and diver, or there are already two consonants, as in hunter and fifty, there is no need for doubling. There are pages of words that follow this pattern and only a few exceptions (such as proper, copy, body, study, busy and lily [demonstration]. This understanding helps children spell hundreds of words and it is taught gradually over several years.

 

A rule that is not reliable

 

One of the well-known phonic rules is this: ‹i› before ‹e› except after ‹c›. Unfortunately, it is not a reliable rule unless you add the words ‘if it has an /ee/ sound’. Then the rule works, as can be seen in ceiling, deceit, conceive, deceive, perceive and receipt. Even then, the rule is hardly worth learning because there are so few words that it applies to.

 

 

  • CRE Spelling Rules Booklet

    These pages can be downloaded and made into a booklet. On some printers each page has to be printed one at a time and back-to-back.

  • Words ending in 'er'.

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in 'er' - print letters

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in '-le'.

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in '-le' - print letters

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in 'y' with an /ee/ sound

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in 'y' with an /ee/ sound - print letters

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • CRE Spelling Rules Booklet

    These pages can be downloaded and made into a booklet. On some printers each page has to be printed one at a time and back-to-back.

  • Words ending in 'er'.

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in 'er' - print letters

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in '-le'.

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in '-le' - print letters

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.