Letter Writing from Good Letter Writing

Spelling Rules In English

Spelling rules in EnglishThis page is dedicated to common spelling rules in English language. Many words sound alike but have completely different meanings when put into writing. The list below outlines some common spelling rules in English and will help you identify and then distinguish between some of the more common words that sound alike.

Please remember that this list of spelling rules in English is a guide to the more common spelling rules. If in doubt use a dictionary or a spell check, and don't feel embarrassed about getting someone to check over your work.

Spelling Rules to Remember

The Accept & Except Spelling Rule

  • accept = verb meaning to receive or to agree:
    He accepted their proposal.
  • except = preposition meaning all but, other than:
    Everyone was there except James.

The Affect & Effect Spelling Rule

  • affect = verb meaning to influence:
    Will lack of practice affect your performance?
  • effect = noun meaning result or consequence:
    Will lack of practice have an effect on your performance?
  • effect = verb meaning to bring about, to accomplish:
    Our campaign has dramatically effected the outcome of the election.

A useful phrase to remember for the affect, effect spelling rule is:

RAVEN: Remember Affect is a Verb; Effect is a Noun

The Advise & Advice Spelling Rule

  • advise = verb that means to recommend, suggest, or counsel:
    I advise you to watch out for that.
  • advice = noun that means an opinion or recommendation about what could or should be done:
    Steve asked for my advice on the matter.

The Conscious & Conscience Spelling Rule

  • conscious= adjective meaning awake, perceiving:
    When Chris received a head injury he became unconscious.
  • conscience = noun meaning the sense of obligation to be good:
    Ever since we had that argument it has been on my conscience.

The Idea & Ideal Spelling Rule

  • idea = noun meaning a thought, belief, or conception held in the mind, or a general notion or conception formed by generalization:
    Liam's surprise party was my idea.
  • ideal = noun meaning something or someone that embodies perfection, or an ultimate object or endeavour:
    Mary and William were the ideal match.
  • ideal = adjective meaning embodying an ultimate standard of excellence or perfection, or the best:
    Graham was the ideal student.

The Its & It's Spelling Rule

  • its = possessive adjective (possessive form of the pronoun it):
    The car had a dent in its door.
  • it's = contraction for it is or it has (in a verb phrase):
    It's going to be a lovely day.

The Lead & Led Spelling Rule

  • lead = noun referring to a dense metallic element:
    I used a lead pencil.
  • led = past-tense and past-participle form of the verb to lead, meaning to guide or direct:
    Sarah was led astray by her best friend.

The Than & Then Spelling Rule

  • Than = used in comparison statements: Mike was better than Ryan.
    used in statements of preference: I would rather play golf than football.
    used to suggest quantities beyond a specified amount: The supermarket had more than the shop.
  • Then = a time other than now: Kelly will start then.
    next in time, space, or order: First we will cook, then we will eat.
    suggesting a logical conclusion: If you study hard, then you will get good grades.

The Their, There & They're Spelling Rule

  • Their = possessive pronoun:
    That is their house.
  • There = that place:
    The fields are over there.
  • They're = contraction for they are:
    They're going to be here very soon.

The To, Too & Two Spelling Rule

  • To = preposition, or first part of the infinitive form of a verb:
    Ben went to the party.
  • Too = very or also:
    Harry was there too.
  • Two = the number 2:
    The next number after one is two.

The We're, Where & Were Spelling Rule

  • We're = contraction for we are:
    We're happy to be here.
  • Where = location:
    Where are you going?
  • Were = a past tense form of the verb be:
    Fred and Kim were supposed to attend.

The Your & You're Spelling Rule

  • Your = possessive pronoun:
    Your tie is very nice.
  • You're = contraction for you are:
    You're being very unreasonable.

The I/E Spelling Rule

The I/E rule is one of the best known spelling rules that many people are taught from a young age. The common rhyme:

"Write I before E, Except after C"

can be somewhat misleading as this does not always lead to the correct spelling. Another addition to this popular rhyme is

"Or when it sounds like an A"

(e.g. "neighbour" and "weigh")

These rhymes are easy to remember and useful as rules for spelling in English as long as you remember the following exceptions:

seize, either, weird, height, foreign, leisure, conscience, counterfeit, forfeit, neither, science, species, sufficient

The ible & able Spelling Rule

ible able
If the starting word is not already a complete word, then add "ible".

For example in constructing the word horrible the "horr" part is not already a word and so we need to add "ible".

horr + ible = horrible

Other examples:
  • visible
  • horrible
  • terrible
  • possible
  • edible
  • eligible
  • incredible
  • permissible
If the starting word is a complete word then add "able".

accept + able = acceptable

  • fashionable
  • laughable
  • suitable
  • dependable
  • comfortable

If the starting word is a complete word ending in "e", drop the final "e" and add "able".


  • advisable
  • desirable
  • valuable
  • debatable

As with many spelling rules in English there are some exceptions:

  • contemptible
  • digestible
  • flexible
  • responsible
  • irritable
  • inevitable

Thank you for taking the time to look through our spelling rules in English guide. If you have any questions or suggestions please contact us.