10 Spelling Rules to Help Keep You Out of Trouble on the GED

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

Although the GED test isn’t crowded with questions that challenge your ability to spell correctly, you may lose points on your Extended Response if you misspell numerous words or if your spelling is so atrocious that it inhibits the reader’s ability to understand the essay. Here are ten spelling rules that can transform you into a human spell-checker:

  • i before e except after c: You may be able to recite the rule already: i before e except after c or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh. This rule typically applies only if the sound formed by the ie combination is “ee.” In words such as science and sufficient, for example, the rule doesn’t apply.

    Of course, the rule has exceptions, in which the e comes before the i even if it doesn’t come after c and isn’t pronounced as a, including weird, seize, their, foreign, feisty, and heist.

  • Use ful for nouns and adjectives and –fully for adverbs: A common mistake is to end a word such as plentiful with two ls instead of one. To avoid making this mistake, keep in mind that ful ends in one l when used in adjectives and nouns such as careful, thoughtful, powerful, and deceitful. If the word ends in fully, however, use two ls: carefully, thoughtfully, powerfully, and deceitfully. In general, remember as well that adverbs end in y, but adjectives do not.

  • Know when to drop the final e before a suffix: A suffix is a letter or group of letters added to the end of a word to change its meaning or use. When adding a suffix to a word that ends in a silent e, drop the e before adding a suffix that begins with a vowel but not before a suffix beginning with a consonant become/becoming, but home/homeless.

    Important exceptions include words that end in ce and ge, such as noticeable and manageable. You generally keep the e in these cases so that the c or g retains its soft sound. One exception to the exception is that judgement may also be spelled judgment.

    When a word ends in a double-vowel, you usually keep the e, as in canoe/canoeing and flee/ fleeing (but then there’s argue/arguing).

  • Mind your ibles and ables: You can add able or ible to certain words to transform them into adjectives. In other cases, the able or ible is an essential part of the word. So, how do you tell whether a word ends in able or ible? Here are a couple of guidelines to help:

    • Far more words end in able than in ible, so if you have to guess, guess able.

    • If the stem is a word in its own right, chances are that able is the correct ending; for example, if you take the ending off dependable, you have depend, which is a word. Take the ending off horrible, and you have horr, which isn’t a word.

    • If the stem ends in a hard c or hard g sound, chances are that able is the correct ending.

    Consider memorizing a few of the more common words that end in ible, including accessible, eligible, feasible, gullible, illegible, incredible, invincible, plausible, and tangible.

  • Double the final consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel: When you’re adding a suffix (ending) to a word that ends with a consonant immediately preceded by a vowel, and the suffix begins with a vowel, you usually must double the final consonant before the suffix: begin/beginning and occur/occurrence. (but label to labeled, not labeled)

  • Change y to i before adding a suffix: When a word ends in y, change the y to i before adding a suffix, unless the suffix begins with i, as in the following words: happy/happiness, defy/defied or defying, and empty/emptiness.

  • Add a prefix correctly: Adding a prefix to the beginning of a word generally doesn’t change the word’s spelling: dissatisfied, dissimilar, ennoble, immeasurable, misspelling, nonnegotiable, and unnecessary.

    Be especially careful when the letter at the end of the prefix is the same as the first letter of the word, as in all of the examples presented here. You may be inclined to drop one of the repeating letters, which often results in a “.

  • Tune into homonyms and the problems they cause: Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Because they sound the same, people often confuse them for one another. Here are several of the most commonly confused homonyms:

    • Accept/Except: Accept means “to receive,” as in accepting an award. Except means “to exclude,” as in watching everything on TV except talk shows.

    • Affect/Effect: Affect means “to alter or influence,” as in the weather affects one’s moods. Effect is the result of something, as in the effect a new tax law has the on the economy.

    • A lot/Allot: A lot means “much” or “many.” Allot means “to distribute,” as in allotting a certain amount of financial assistance to families in need.

    • Allusion/Illusion: An allusion is a reference, as in an allusion to Hamlet. An illusion is something that’s not as it seems, as in the illusion that foods labeled “gluten-free” are automatically healthier for people.

    • It’s/Its: Its is the shortened form of it is. Its is the possessive form of it, as in “The team was holding its own against a more aggressive opponent.”

    • Principal/Principle: Principal refers to the head honcho — the principal of a school, the principal complaint that sends you to your doctor to have it checked out, or the main part of a loan (not the interest). Principle refers to ideals or rules, as in the principles of physics or living according to a set of principles.

    • Stationary/Stationery: Stationary means “not moving,” as in a stationary bicycle you’re likely to find at a gym. Stationery is paper, usually with matching envelopes, that you write and send letters on when you’re not using email.

    • Their/There/They’re: Their is the possessive of they, as in their shoes and their coats. There means “somewhere other than here,” as in “I told them to look over there for their shoes.” Theyre is the shortened form of they are, as in “Theyre looking over there for their shoes.”

    • To/Too/Two: To is a preposition that indicates motion toward, as in throwing the ball to her. It’s also part of the infinitive form of a verb, as in “To think is to live.” Too means “excessive,” as in too much candy. Two is the number 2, as in “It takes two to tango.”

  • Know when to capitalizing a person’s title — or not: Capitalization rules are numerous and complex. One area that people commonly have trouble with is capitalization of titles, such as President Obama or Senator Dan Coats. Do you always capitalize references to the president and senators? No. Initial cap the title when it precedes the name of the person and use lowercase when the title comes after the person’s name or is used without the person’s name. For example, “Today, President Obama signed the bill into law. but “Today, the president signed the bill into law.”

  • Avoid the ten most common misspellings: The following table presents the ten most commonly misspelled words to avoid at all costs.

    Misspelling Correction Commentary
    thier their This word is notorious for breaking the i before e rule.
    alot a lot A lot is two words. (These two words are often overused, so you
    may be better off to find an alternative, such as many, much, or
    numerous.)
    recieved received Remember the i before e rule.
    seperate separate Sound it out: se-pahr-ate.
    untill until Only one l.
    becuase because Transposing the a and u may be common because the two look so
    much alike.
    begining beginning Remember the double-the-consonant rule earlier in this
    list.
    diffrent different No matter how fast you say it, different is supposed to be a
    three-syllable word.
    occured occurred Double down on the double-the-consonant rule.
    definately definitely Define it, Lee!