I’m sure you know that English spelling is not always easy, for foreign students or even for Americans!  (There are reasons why English spelling is so strange.  I can explain those reasons…)

Here are some simple rules for familiar problems in English spelling:

1) “I-E” or “E-I”?
If the word is pronounced “ee,” it is usually “I-E,” with some important exceptions.

When American children learn English spelling in school, they all learn a little poem: “I” before “E,” except after “C” or when sounded like “AY” as in neighbor or weigh.

That’s why “believe” is spelled one way and “receive” is spelled the other.  (In the word “receive,” it is “E-I” because it comes after “C.”)

But all rules need exceptions, right?  Here is a sentence that contains some exceptions to the “I” before “E,” except after “C” rule.  It is a good idea to memorize it:  “Neither leisure nor their weird foreign caffeine helped them seize the height.”


Avoid this easy trap!  The word “full”  has two “L”s.  However, when -ful is added to the end of another word (as a suffix), it has only one “L.” Examples are:  joyful, beautiful, plentiful, faithful.


When a word ends in “Y,” that letter becomes an “I” when other syllables are added to the end. For example: Happy/happiness; beauty/beautiful; lovely/loveliness; lonely/loneliness; silly/silliness.