Irregularly spelt common words

Shown below are 4,219 common words with unpredictable spellings. Only 2,828 have irregular spellings like ‘fruit’, but they make another 1,389 unpredictable. –  Long /oo/, for example, is spelt mainly oo (in 94 words like ‘food, soon’). But because they are outnumbered by 103 words in which long/oo/ is spelt differently (e.g. rude, shrewd, move), the spellings for long /oo/ all have to be learned one by one, in all 197 words.

      Next to the words with irregular spellings are shown respellings which conform to the main English spelling patterns. – Theyhelp to clarify their irregularities, and for words which pose both reading and as spelling difficulties, they also provide guides to pronunciation. 

    The tricky words are listed in the following order:

1) Words with irregular spellingsfor clear vowels and consonantsin alphabetical order of

     the spellings which they disobey,  i.e.  A,  a-e-ain air-ar,  au-aw,  -ay,  … .

2) Irregular spellings for unstressed vowels (e.g. flatten, certain, mutton)

3) Unpredictably doubled consonants (rabbit habit, very merry, shoddy body).

    The figures [in brackets] show how many of the 7,000 most used words which I analysed use the pattern  and how many do not.  Redundant or surplus letters are shown in red (e.g. have, debt, touch).

Heterographs, such as ‘ale/ail‘, are reduced to a single spelling [ale], like the 2,500 other English words which have just one spelling for their different meanings (e.g. bar, post, round).   mashabell@aol.com

 (hat) – [466 – 4/7]

have,  meringue,  plaid,  plait, aunt,draught,  laughhav,  merang,  plad,  plat, ant/ahnt,  draft/drahft,  laf/lahf  – (US/UK)

a-e / ai  (e.g. made/maid) – [338 – 75]

ale/ail,  bale/bail,  male/mail,   pale/pail,  sale/sail,  tale/tail,  whale/wail, aid/aide,  made/maid,  brake/break,  stake/steak, place/plaice,   waste/waist; ate/eight,  bate/bait grate/great,  straight/straits,  wait/weight,   fate/fête,   assail, cocktail, detail, fail, hail, jail, nail, prevail, rail, retail, snail, trail, braid,  laid,  paid, raid, afraid,
aim, claim, exclaim, maim, proclaim
daisy, praise, raise, raisin, traitor, freight,  faith halfpenny, neighbour, able, apron, cable, fable, gable, stable, table, cradle, ladle, sabre, gauge


ale,  bale,  male,  pale, sale,  tale, wale, ade, made brake,  stake, place,  waste, ate,  bate,  grate strate / strates,   wate, fate, asale, coctale, deetale, fale, hale, jale,  nale, prevale, rale, reetale, snale, trale, brade,  lade,  pade, rade, afrade,ame, clame, exclame, mame, proclame, 
dasy,  prase, rase, rasin,  trater,
frate, fathe
hapenny,  naber, abel, aperon,  cabel, fabel, gabel, stabel, tabel, cradel, ladel, saber, gage

ain  endingsare the most common (in 40 words), but 11 words use –ane, and a small number have other  irregularities.

Lain/lane, main/mane,  pain/pane,  plain/plane
rain/ reign, reins(reindeer),  vain/vein, crane,  sane,  membrane
skein;  deign, feign;  campaign; 
champagne, arrange, change, range, strange
lain,  main,  pain,  plain
rain,  rains(raindeer), vain,
crain,  sain, membrain, scain,  dain, fain,  campain, shampain, arainge, chainge, rainge, strainge,

Air are / ear  – The /air/ sound has  no clear main pattern, but the  ‘air’ spelling is the simplest for readers  (chair,  dairy, despair…) – [15 air – 43 others]; 7 words have two spellings and 2 have three.

Air/heir,   fair/fare,   flair/flare,    hair/hare,   pair/pare/pear,   stair/stare, bare/bear,  there/their,   ware/where/wear,
blare, care, dare, glare, mare, rare, scare, share, snare, spare, square
aware, compare, declare, parent, prepare
canary, hilarious, malaria,
Mary, various, vegetarian, wary. 
Swear,   tear x2,
  Area,    aerial, aeroplaneaerobatics. 


Air,   fair,  flair,    hair, pair,  stair, bair,  thair,   wair,
blair,  cair, dair, glair,  mair, rair, scair, shair, snair, spair, squair, 
awair, compair, declair,  pairent, prepair
canairy, hilairious, malairia, Mary (leaving names unchanged) vairious, vegetairian, wairy. 
Swair,   tair / teer, 
 Airia,   airial,  airoplain, airobatics.   

Just with air: chair, dairy, prairie, affair, despair, éclair, repair, questionnaire.

-ar – (far) – [138 – 3 /4]

 are,  heart, hearth,  clerk,ar,  hart,  harth,  clark(UK)

For speakers of standard British English,  the following have an ar/ah sound too:
Ask, bask, blast, cask, cast, caste, clasp, contrast, fast, flabbergast, flask, gasp, ghastly, grasp, last, mask, mast, past, rascal, task, vast, brass, class, glass, grass, pass, mass(x2 in UK).
   Advance, avalanche, banana, branch, chance, dance, chant, enhance, glance, lance, plant, prance, slant, soprano, stance, trance. 
   After, craft, daft, draft, giraffe, graft, raft, shaft, staff.  Almond, calf, calm, half, halve, palm, gala. 
 Drama, example, panorama, salami.  Bath, path, father, lather, rather. 
   Bra, la, ma, pa, spa, ah, hurrah, shah, baa,  armada, fuselage, promenade, strata, vase.   Graph.
 


Au / aw  -(autumn, awful, all, alter)  –  The /au/ sound has no clearly dominant main pattern,

but au is the most used spelling  [in 45 words  –  with 79 exceptions].

In  endings, it is spelt regularly as –aw (claw, draw, jaw), except ‘awe’.

Awe,    awful, awkward, awning, bawdy, dawdle, hawk, squawk
Bawl, brawl, crawl, drawl, scrawl, shawl, sprawl, trawl. 
   All,  almost,  already, also, altogether, always
ball, call, recall, fall, gall, hall, pall/Paul, small, squall, stalltall, wall,   
appal,  install, instalmentbald, scald, chalk stalk, talk,   altar/ alter, alternate x2, alternative, falter, halt, salt;        poultry
Brawn,  dawn,  drawn, fawn,  lawn,  pawn,  prawn,  sawn,  spawn,  yawn.
 Caught, daughter, haughty, naughty, slaughter, taught.
Bought, brought, fought, nought, ought,  sought, thought.
Broad.        Walnut, walrus, waltz; water.
Aw,     auful, aukward, auning, baudy,  daudle,   hauk, squauk.  Baul, braul, craul, draul, scraul, shaul, spraul, traul. 
Aul,  aulmost, aulreddy, aulso, aultugether,  aulways, 
baul, caul, recaul, faul, gaul, haul,  paul/Paul, smaul, squaul, staul, taul, waul,   
apaul,  instaul, instaulment, bauld, scauld, chaulk,  staulk, taulk, aulter, aulternate / aulternat, aulternativ, faulter, hault, sault;       paultry. 
Braun,  daun,  draun,  faun,  laun,   paun,  praun,  saun,  spaun,  yaun.  Caut, dauter,  hauty, nauty,  slauter, taut. Baut, braut, faut,  naut, aut, saut, thaut.
Braud. Waulnut, waulrus, waultz;  wauter.    

Spelt with au: applaud,  applause,  astronaut ,  auburn,  auction,  audacious,  audible,  August,  auspicious,  authentic,  author,  authorise,  authority,  auto,  autonomy,  autumn,  cauldron,  cause,  caution,  cautious,  cosmonaut,  daub,  exhaust,  fault,  gaudy,  haul,  haunt,  jaunt,  launch,  launder,  laundry,  maul,  nautical,  Paul,  pause,  Santa-Claus,  sauce,  saucer,  somersault,  staunch,  tarpaulin,  taunt,  taut,  vault. 


 –ay /-ey /-eigh – (say –  they, weigh)  –  [42 –ay  –  19 others]

They, grey, hey, convey, obey, survey.
 Neigh/nay,   slay/sleigh,   way/whey/weigh.
Ballet,  beret,  bouquet,  buffet,  duvet,  chalet,  chliche,  crochet,
Café,  matinee, sundae/Sunday 
thay,  gray, hay, convay, obay, survay,
nay,  slay,  way,
Ballay, berray, bookay, buffay, duvay, shallay, clishay, croshay.
 Caffay,  mattinay, sunday/Sunday 

With –ay:  bay,  betray,  bray,  clay,  day,  (Monday,  Tuesday,  Wednesday,  Thursday,  Friday,  Saturday,  Sunday,  holiday,  midday,  today,  yesterday),  fray,  gay,  hay,  lay,  may,  pay,  play,  pray,  ray,  say,  slay,  spray,  stay,  stray,  sway,  tray,  way,  array,  astray,  away,  decay,  delay,  dismay,  display,  essay,  okay.  


Ca-, co-, cu-, cl-, cr- (cat, cot, cut, clip, crib, comic, arctic)

                                         [c in 1,000 words – with 33 exceptions).

chameleon, chaos, character, chasm, mechanical
kaleidoscope, kangaroo, karate, kayak, skate
anchor, cholesterol, chorus, psychological, school, 
bouquet,  quoit,  turquoise,  queue/cue, chlorine,  chocolateChristmas, chrome, chrysalis, chrysanthemum,  mackereltechnical, cockney, cocktail, anorak, barrack, ransack, stomach
Cameeleon, caos, caracter,  casm, mecannical, 
calidoscope, cangaroo, carahty, cayac, scate, 
ancor,  colesterol,  corus, sicolodgical,  scool, 
bookay,  coit,  turcoise,  cue, cloreen,  choclat, Crismas, crome, crissalis, crisanthemum, macrle,  tecnical, cocny, coctale, annorac, barrac, ransac, stummac

Ch – (chip) – regular, apart from ‘cello‘,  but with a  redundant  t–  (catch) after short vowels in 24 words,  unlike 7:   much, rich, such, touch, which, attach,  detach.                         

Cello. Catch, hatch, latch, match, patch, scratch, snatch, thatch, dispatch; sketch, stretch,  wretch/retch; ditch, hitch, itch, pitch, stitch, switch, twitch, witch/which; notch, watch;   hutch, Dutch.Chello. Cach, hach, lach, mach, pach, scrach,   snach, thach, dispach; skech, strech,  rech; dich, hich, ich, pich, stich, swich, twich,   wich; noch, woch;   huch, Duch.


-cy  (fancy) – /see/-sound in endings – [11 –cy   –  6 not]:

Controversy, courtesy, fantasy, gypsy,  topsy-turvy.   Embassy.Controvercy, curtecy, fantacy, gipcy, topcy-turvy.    Embacy.

With –cy:  agency,  conspiracy,  delicacy,  democracy,  diplomacy,  emergency,  fancy ,  mercy,  policy,  tendency,  vacancy.

 
E – (bed – head) –  exceptions mainly with a surplus a – [301 e – 64 irregular]

Bread/bred, breadth, breast, breath, dead, deaf, dealt,  death, dread, dreamt, head, health,    lead x2,  leant, leapt, meant, readx2, realm, spread, sweat, thread, threat, wealth.   Breakfast, cleanliness, cleanse, endeavour, feather, heather, instead, leather, measure, pleasure,stealthy, treacherous, tread,  treasure, weather.
  Every, friend,
Against, said, says, every, Wednesday.
bred, bredth,  brest,  breth,  ded,  def,  delt,  deth,  dred,  dremt,  hed,  helth,    leed, led,  lent,  lept,  ment,  reed, red, relm,  spred,  swet,  thred,  thret,  welth.   Brekfast,  clenlines,  clense,  endevour,  fether,  hether,  insted,  lether,  mesure,  plesure, stelthy,  trecherous,  tred,  tresure,  wether.
 Evry, frend. Agenst,  sed,  ses,  evry,  Wensday.

The following 16 are also without a doubled consonant after the short /e/ sound:

 Heaven, heavy, jealous, meadow,   peasant, pheasant, pleasant, ready, (already), steady, weapon, zealous
Any, many. Jeopardy, leopard.   Berry/bury.  Heifer. Leisure,  lieutenant
Hevven,  hevvy,  jellous, meddo, pezzent, fezzent, plezzent, reddy, (aulreddy), steddy, weppon, zellous, 
enny,  menny, jeppardy, leppard, berry,  heffer. UK: Lesure,  leftennent; US: leesure,   lutennent.

Ee / ea / e-e … – (deed, lead, concede, siege, conceive, police, people, key, sk
Spellings for the /ee/-sound are completely unpredictable, apart from a few longer words which end with a stressed /ee/ (agree, chimpanzee, employee). The 452 spellings for the 404 common words with an /ee/ sound all have to be learned one by one.
    48 words have two spellings:

Bee/be,  beech/beach,  been/bean,  beet/beat, breech/breach,  cheep/cheap,  creek/creak,  deer/dear, discreet/discrete,  eerie/eyrie,  eve/eaves, feet/feat,  flee/flea,  freeze/frieze,   jeans/genes, Greece/grease,   heel/heal,  hear/here,   key/quay,  leech/leach, leek/leak,  meet/meat,  need/knead, pee/pea,  peace/piece, peek/peak,  peel/peal,  peer/pier,  reed/ readx2[reed/red],   reek/wreak,  reel/real, sealing/ceiling,  seamen/semen,  see/sea,  seem/seam,   seen/scene,   serial/cereal,    sheer/shear, sheikh/chic,   steel/steal,  sweet/suite,   tee/tea,  teem/team,   wee/we,  week/weak,  wheel/weal. + UK: Geezer/geyser,  lever/leaverBee,  beech, been,   beet,  breech,   cheep,   creek,   deer,  discreet,   eery,  eev(s),   feet,   flee,   freese,     jeens,    Greece/ greece,    heel,   heer,  kee/quay,  leech,  leek,   meet,   need,  pee,    peece,   peek,   peel,   peer,   reed/red,     reek,   reel,    seeling,   seemen,   see,   seem,    seen,    seerial,    sheer,   sheek,   steel,    sweet,  tee,   teem,    wee,   week,   weel. UK: Geeser,  leever. US: geeser,  giser,   leever, lever.

The other unpredictable spellings for /ee/ are shown below. 

The 80 words with just ee for the /ee/ sound have to be learned word by word too: 

Beef, beer, beetle, between, bleed, bleep, breed, breeze, career, cheek, cheer, cheese, cheetah, creep, deed, deep, eel, exceed, feeble, feed, feel, fleece, fleet, geese, greed, green, greet, indeed, jeep, jeer, keel, keen, keep, kneel, meek, needle, peep, pioneer, preen, proceed, proceedings, proceeds, queen, queer, reef, screech, screen, seed, seek, seep, seesaw, sheep, sheet, sleek, sleep, sleet, sleeve, smithereens, sneer, sneeze, speech, speed, squeeze, steep, steeple, steer, street, succeed, sweep, sweet, teeth, teetotal, thirteen, tweed, tweezers, weed, weep, wheedle, wheeze, wildebeest. 

 Achieve, adhesive, albino, antique, appeal, appear,arena, aubergine, beacon, bead, beak, beam, beard, beast, beaver, belief, believe, beneath, bikini, bleach, bleak, bleat, breathe, brief , cafeteria, caffeinecathedral, cease, cedar, chameleon, cheat, chief, chinese, clean, clear, clementine, cliché, codeine, colleague, comedian, compete, complete, conceal, conceit,   conceive, concrete, congeal, convene, convenient, cream, crease, creature, deal,  dean, debrisdeceit, deceive, decent, decrease, defeat, demon, diesel, disease, dream, dreary, each, eager, eagle, ear, ease, east, Easter, eat, equal, era, even, evil, experience, exterior, extreme, fatigue, fear, feasible, feast, feature, female, fever, field, fiend, fierce,  freak, frequent, gear, geniegenius, gleam, glean, grief, grieve, guillotine, he, heap, heat,  heath, heathen, heave, hero, hyena, hygienic, imperial, increase, inferior, ingredient, intermediate, interior, leadx2, leaf, league, lean, leap, lease, leash, least, leave, legal, legion, lenient, machine, magazine, margarine, marine, material, me, meagre, meal, mean, measles, medieval, medium, mere, meteor, meter, millipede, mosquito, mysterious, near, neat, niece, obedient, ordeal, peach, peat, people, period, peter, pierce, pizza, plasticine, plead, please, pleat, police, polythene, preach, precede, prestige, previous, priest, protein, queasy, query, ravine, reach, really, reap, rear, reason, receiptreceive  recent, recess, regime, region, relay, release,  relief, relieve, repeat, retreat, reveal, routine, sardine, scheme, scream, seal, sear, season, seat, secret, seize, senior, sequence, sequin, series, serious, serum,  she, sheaf, sheath, shield, shriek, siege, ski, smear, sneak, souvenir, speak, spear, species, sphere, squeak, squeal, squeamish, stampede, steam, strategic, streak, stream, superior, supreme, swede, tambourine, tangerine,  teach, teak, tearx2, tease, tedious,  theatre, theme, theory, these, thief, thieve, tier, torpedo, trampoline, trapeze, treacle, treason, treat, treaty,  uniquevaseline, veal, vehicle, Venuswean, weary, weasel, weave, weir, weirdwheat, wield, wreath, year, yeast, yieldzeal, zeroacheev, adheesiv, albeeno, anteek, apeel, apeer, areena, aubergeen, beecon, beed, beek, beem, beerd, beest, beever, beleef, beleev,  beneeth, bikeeny, bleech, bleek, bleet, breethe,  breef, cafeteeria, caffeen, catheedral, seece, seedar, cameelien, cheet, cheef, chineese, cleen, cleer, clementeen, cleeshay,  codeen, colleeg, comeedian, compeet, compleet, conceel, conceet, conceev, concreet, congeel, conveen, conveenient, creem, creece,  creecher, deel, deen, debree, deceet, deceev, deecent, decreece, defeet, deemon, deesel, diseese, dreem, dreery, eech, eeger, eegle, eer, eese,  eest, Eester, eet, eequal, eera,  eeven, eevil, expeerience,  exteerior, extreem, fateeg, feer, feesible, feest, feecher, feemale, feever, feeld, feend, feerce, freek, freequent, geer, jeeny,  jeenius, gleem,  gleen, greef, greev, gilloteen, hee, heep, heet,  heeth, heethen, heev, heero, hieena, higeenic, impeerial, increece, infeerior, ingreedient, intermeediat, inteerier,  leed/ led, leef,  leeg, leen,  leep, leece, leesh, leest, leev,  leegal, leegion, leenient, masheen, magazeen, margereen, mareen, mateerial, mee, meegre, meel, meen, meesles, medeeval, meedium, meer, meeteor, meeter, millipeed, mosqueeto, misteerious, neer, neet, neece, obeedient, ordeel, peech, peet,  peeple,  peeriod, peeter, peerce, peetsa, plasticeen,  pleed, pleese, pleet, poleece, pollytheen,  preech, preceed,   presteege, preevious, preest, proteen, queesy, queery, raveen, reech, reely, reep, reer, reeson, receet, receev, reecent, reeces, regeem, reegion, reelay, releece, releef, releev, repeet, retreet, reveel, rooteen,   sardeen, skeem, screem, seel,  seer, seeson, seet, seecret, seese, seenier, seequence, seequin, seeries, seerious, seerum, shee,  sheef, sheeth, sheeld, shreek, seege, skee, smeer, sneek, sooveneer, speek, speer, speecies, sfeer,  squeek, squeel, squeemish, stampeed, steem, strateegic,  streek, streem, supeerier, supreem, sweed, tambureen, tangereen, teech, teek,  teer/tair, teese, teedious,   theeater, theem, theeory,  theece,  theef, theev, teer, torpeedo, trampoleen, trapeese, treecle, treeson, treet, treety, uneek, vaseleen, veel, veehicle, Veenus, ween, weery, weesel, weeve, weer, weerd, weet,  weeld,  reeth, yeer, yeest, yeeld,  zeel, zeero

      Many of the different spellings for /ee/ cause reading difficulties as well.

     ea:  treat –  threat, great; ear – earn, bear, heart;     e-e:  here – there;      ie:  fiend – friend, sieve, diet;     ei:  seize – reindeer, leisure, eider;      i-e:  machine – refine, imagine;    eo:  people – leopard, leotard;       ey:  key – they;   i:  ski – hi;    is:  debris – pelvis.


 er /ur / ir / ear … – (berth, burst, bird, earn, worth) – [71 er, 70 ur, 39 ir23 assorted].  
     The 203 words with a stressed /er/sound have no main spelling.

This means that no respelt words with this sound look right, as shown below. The different spellings pose no reading difficulties, apart from the 11 wors with ear (e.g. early, ear, bear). This makes this irregularity a less serious educational handicap and in less urgent need of repair.

Berth/birth,  fern, her, herb, herd, jerk, nerve, perch, serve, stern, swerve, term, verb, verge, verse, were.
Advertisement, alert, alternative, anniversary, assert, certain, commercial, concern, confer, conserve, conversion, deserve, dessert, detergent, determine, emerge, eternal, exert, external, fertile, germinate, hermit, impertinent, insert, interpret, jersey, kernel, merchant, mercury, mercy, observe, perfect, perfume, permanent, permit, person, pertinent, preserve, refer, reserve, reverse, sermon, serpent, terminate, termite, thermal,  transferx2, universal, university, verdict, vermin, version, versus, vertical. Bler, berden, berglar, bergle, berly, bern, berr, berst, cherch, chern, kerfew, kerl, kerlew, kerse, kert, kerve, disterb, exkersion, fer, fernish, ferry, ferther, gergle, herdle, herl, hert, hertle, incersion, lerch, lerk, merder, mermer, nastertium, nerse, nersery, occer, perchase, perple, perpose, perr, perse, retern, sler, sper, spern, spert, sterdy, serf, serface, serge, sergeon, sergery, sername, serplus, servey, Thersday, topsy-tervy, terban, terbine, terf, terkey, termoil, tern, ternip, terquoise, tertle, erban, erchin, erge, ern, yert.    Berch, berd, berth, cherp, cercle, cercuit, cercular, cercumstances, cercus, conferm, dert,  encercle, fer, ferm, ferst, flert, gerder, gerdle, gerl, merth, sherk, shert, ser, skermish,  skert, smerk, squerm, squert, ster, swerl, therd, therst, therteen, therty, twerl,  vertually, vertue, wherl, wherring. Erl, erly, ern, ernest, erth, herd, lern, perl, reherse,  serch, yern. Werd, werk, werld, werm, werse, wership, werst, werth. Aterny,  kertecy, jernal,  jerny.
Burth,  furn, hur, hurb, hurd, jurk, nurve, purch, surve,  sturn, swurve, turm, vurb, vurge, vurse, wur.
Advurtisement, alurt, alturnative, annivursary, assurt, surtain, commurcial, consurn, confur, consurve, convursion, desurve, dessurt, deturgent, deturmin, emurge, eturnal, exurt, exturnal, furtile, jurminate, hurmit, impurtinent, insurt, inturpret, jursy, kurnel, murchant, murcury, murcy, obsurve, purfect, purfume, purmanent, purmit, purson, purtinent, presurve, refur, resurve, revurse, surmon, surpent, turminate, turmite, thurmal, transfer(n), to transfur, univursal, univursity, vurdict, vurmin, vursion, vursus, vurtical. Blur, burden, burglar, burgle, burly, burn, burr, burst,  church, churn, curfew, curl, curlew, curse, curt, curve, disturb, excursion, fur, furnish, furry, further, gurgle, hurdle, hurl, hurt, hurtle, incursion, lurch, lurk, murder, murmur, nasturtium, nurse, nursery, occur, purchase, purple, purpose, purr, purse, return, slur, spur, spurn, spurt, sturdy, surf, surface, surge, surgeon, surgery, surname, surplus, survey, Thursday, topsy-turvy, turban,   turbine, turf, turkey, turmoil, turn, turnip, turquoise, turtle, urban, urchin, urge, urn, yurt. Burch, burd, burth, churp,  surcle, surcuit, surcular, surcumstances, surcus, confurm, durt,  ensurcle, fur, furm, furst, flurt, gurder, gurdle, gurl, murth, shurk, shurt, sur, scurmish,  skurt, smurk, squurm, squurt, stur, swurl, thurd, thurst, thurteen, thurty, twurl,  vurtually, vurtue, whurl, whurring. Url, urly, urn, urnest, urth, hurd, lurn, purl, rehurse, surch, yurn. Wurd, wurk, wurld, wurm, wurse, wurship, wurst, wurth. Aturny, curtecy, jurnal, jurny. 
  firn, hir, hirb, hird, jirk, nirve, pirch, sirve, stirn, swirve, tirm, virb, virge, virse, wir.  Advirtisement, alirt, altirnative, annivirsary, assirt, cirtain, commircial, consirn, confir, consirve, convirsion, desirve, dessirt,  detirgent, detirmin, emirge, etirnal, exirt, extirnal, firtile, girminate, hirmit, ….                                                                         Birch, bird, birth, chirp, circle, circuit, circular, circumstances, circus, confirm, dirt, encircle, fir, firm, first, flirt, girder, girdle, girl, mirth, shirk, shirt, sir, skirmish, skirt, smirk, squirm, squirt, stir, swirl, third, thirst,  thirteen, thirty, twirl, virtually, virtue, whirl, whirring. Earl, early, earn, earnest, earth, heard/herd,  learn, pearl,   rehearse, search, yearn. Word, work, world, worm, worse, worship, worst, worth. Attorney. Courtesy, journal, journey.

F – (fun – phonto) – (580 – 44)

 Phantom, pharaoh, phase, pheasant, phenomenon, philosophy,  physics, physiological,  phone, photograph, phrase;
alphabet, amphibian, asphyxiate, apostrophe, catastrophe, cellophane,  decipher, dolphin, elephant, emphasise,  nephew, orphan,  pamphlet, prophet, sapphire, siphon,  sophisticated, sphere, symphony,  trophytyphoon;
Graph, Joseph, nymph, triumph. Laugh, draught.
Cough, trough, enough, rough,  sloughx2tough.
Fantom, faro, fase, fezzent, fenommenon, filossofy,  fizzics, fisiological, fone, fotograf, frase;
alfabet, amfibian, asfixiate, apostrofy, catastrofysellofane,  decifer, dolfin, ellefent, emfacise,  neffue, orfen, pamflet, proffet, saffire, sifon,  sofisticated, sfeer, simfony,  trofy,  tifoon; Graf,  Josef,  nimf, triumf. Laf,  draft. Cof, trof, enuff, ruf,    slow/sluf,  tuf.

G – (garden; get, gift) – 12 words have extra letters after g  to show that it should not be pronounced

        /j/beore e or i, as in ‘gentle giant’, but as in ‘garden’.

Gherkin; spaghetti. Guess, guest, 
Guillotine, guilt, guinea-pig, guitar,  disguise, guide; dinghy, guy.
gerkin; spagetti, ges, gest, 
gilloteen, gilt, ginny-pig, gitar,  disgise,  gide; dinghy, gy,

They don’t really need them, as 25 words with a hard g get by without extra letters:

Gear, geese, get, geyser, anger, eager, finger, hunger, linger, tiger, hamburger, forget, target.
Giddy, giggle, gild, gills, gilt, girder, girdle, girl, give; begin, corgi, gymkhana.

     15 words have completely surplus letters after g (before  a and o)

Ghastly, guarantee, guard, ghost, ghoulish,yogurt/yoghurt.
Catalogue, dialogue, epilogue, synagogue. Colleague, fatigue, league. Meringue, tongue.
gastly, garantee, gard, goast, goolish, yoggurt(UK), yogurt (US)
cattalog, dialog, eppilog, sinnagog, colleeg, fateeg, leeg, merang, tung

-ge, -gi– – (age, engine, revenge) – are the main spellings for a / j/-sound  inside words and in endings, except in:

Adjective, inject, object, objection, project, reject, subject.  Majesty, majestic.As those irregular spellings are helpful to readers, they could be left as exceptions.


H – (hot, house) – with just 6 exceptions:

Who, whom, whose, whooping.  Hole/whole,  holy/wholly.hoo, hoom, hoose, hooping,   hole, holy

I – (sit – system) –  (421 – 53) – exceptions mainly with y.

      Some lack consonant doubling as well (synonym) and have other irregularities (cylinder).

     Abyss, crypt, crystal, cyclical, cygnet, cymbals, cyst, eucalyptus, gym, hymn, hypnotise, lynch, lynx, mystery, myth, Olympics, rhythm, syllable, symbol/cymbal, symmetry, sympathy,  symptom, synchronise, syndicatex2,  syndrome, synthesis, system.    Without doubled consonants (cf symmetry)
Chrysalis, cylinder, cynical, lyric, physics, synagogue, synonym, syrup, typical, tyranny. Build, built, busy, English, pretty, sieve, vineyard, women.
     Abiss, cript, cristal, siclical, signet, simbals, sist, ucaliptus, jim, him, hipnotise, linch,  linx, mistery, mith, Olimpics, rithm, sillable, simble, simmetry, simpathy,  simptom, sincronise, a  sindicat/to sindicate,  sindrome, sinthesis, sistem

Chrissalis, sillinder, sinnical, lirric,  fizzics, sinnagog, sinnonim, sirrup, tippical, tirrany. Bild, bilt, bizzy, Inglish, pritty, siv, vinyard, wimmen.


i-e – (bite – bright) – [278 – 76]

I /eye. Bite/bight(bay),  knight/night,  lite/light,  mite/might,  rite/right/write,   slight/sleight(of hand), sight/site/cite,
alight, blight, bright, delight, fight, flight, fright, frighten, lightning, mighty, tight
Height; indict
Bible, bridle, disciple, idle, rifle, stifle, trifle. (cf. libel, idol – biblical).
Climb/clime, rhyme/rime,  style/stile, tire/tyre, asylum, cycle, cypress, dyke, dynamic, dynamite, dynamo, hyacinth, hydrangea, hydrogen, hyena, hypothesis, nylon,  paralyse, psychology, pylon,  thyroid, type, tyrant.
  Choir, eider-down,  (Fahrenheit),  island; kaleidoscopeninth, resign, sign. Either, neither     Hygrometer (seems better than higerometer), also pythonscythe;    y for i before blended consonants  would also improve these: Behind, bind, blind, find, grind, hind,  kind, mind, pint, rind,   wind x2; Child, mild, wild, whilst.  (cf. children, mildew, wilderness) [In the 16th C  i  and   were used randomly.]
i,
bite, nite, lite,
mite, rite, slite, site, 
alite, blite, brite, delite, fite, flite, frite, friten, litening, mity, tite, 
hite,  indite,
bibel, bridel, dicipel, idel, rifel, stifel, trifel,    Clime,  rime, stile,  tire, asilum, sikel, siperes, dike, dinammic, dinamite, dinamo, hiacinth, hiderangea, hiderogen, hiena,  hipothesis, nilon,  parralise, sicollogy, pilon,  thiroid, tipe, tirent, quier,  ider-doun, Farrenhite,  iland,  kalidoscope, nineth,  resine, sine, ither, nither (UK pronunciation),  eether, neether (US),  


Behynd, bynd, blynd, fynd, grynd, hynd, kynd, mynd, pynt, rynd,   
wind/wynd, chyld, myld, wyld, wylst,   


J – (jam, job, jug) – Before ao and u the spelling is completely regular,

        but less predictable before ei and y:

Jelly, jest, jet, jettison, jetty, jealous, jerk, jersey; jeans, jeep, jeer, Jew, jewel.  Jiffy, jig, jigsaw, jilt, jingle. Jive.

Gem, general, generation, generous,  genie, genius, gentle, genuine, geography, geranium, germ, gesture.
Gin, ginger, gipsy/gypsy, giraffe, gym, gyp. Giant, gyroscope.
Jem, jenneral, jeneration, jennerous,  jeeny, jeenius, jentle, jennuin, jeografy, jeranium, jerm, jesture. Jin, jinjer, jipsy, jiraf,  jim, jip. Jient, jiroscope.


K – (take – ache)  – [236 – 22] –  The main spelling for the /k/ sound is c (see above).

K is used:  1) before e and i (makekite),    2) after long vowels (speak) and

                    3) after consonants (milk, ankle),  except:

1) Chemical, orchestra; ache, opaque;
     architect, bronchial, orchid;
     marquee, mosquito, quay/key. 
2) antique, boutique, technique, unique.
3) Circle, conker/conquer, monarch, uncle,
 disk/disc, molluscmosque, picturesque,  grotesque.
Kemmical, orkestra, ake, opake,
 arkitect, bronkial, orkid,
 markee, moskeeto,  kee, 
anteek, booteek, tecneek, uneek,
sirkle, conker, monnark, unkle,
disk,  molluskmosk,  picturesk,  grotesk.


L – (lamp – llama) – [1,945 – 1] – lahma
     

M – (mum – crumb) – [1,129 – 17]

 Lamb, limb, bomb, aplomb, crumb, dumb, numbplum/plumb,  plumber, thumb, succumb.
Autumn, column, dam/damn, condemn him/hymn,  solemn.
Lam, lim, bom, aplom, crum, dum, num, plum,  plummer, thum, sucum.
Autum,  collum, dam, condem,  him,  sollem.


N – (nun, boffin – knuckle, famine ) – [2,312 – 23]

Need/knead,  new/knew,  nit/knit,  night/knight, no/know,  nob/knob,  not/knot;
knack, knave, knee, kneel, knife, knobbly, knock, knuckle.
   Gnash, gnat, gnaw, gnome. Foreign, sovereign. Pneumonia, pneumatic
Determine, discipline, famine, feminine, genuine, heroineimagine, masculine, medicine.      Gone, shone; scone (pronounced ‘scon’ and ‘scone’).
Need,  nue,  nit,  nite,  no,  nob,  not, 
nack, nave, nee, neel, nife, nobbly, nock, nuckle,
   nash, nat, naw, nome,  forren, sovren, numonia, numattic, 
determin, dissiplin, fammin, femminin, gennuin, herroin, imadgin, masculin, meddicin,     gon, shon, scone


O – (on  – swan) – [357 – 33] – mainly after  w and qu:

Swallow, swamp, swan, swap, waft, wand,  wander, want/wont, wanton, warrant, warren,  warrior, was, wash, wasp, watch,   Watt/what, wattle.
 Quality, quadrangle, quantity,  quarantine, quarrysquabble, squad,  squander, squash,  squat.         Cough, trough; laurel, sausage.
Swollow, swomp, swon, swop, woft, wond,  wonder, wont,  wonton, worrent, worren,  worrier, wos, wosh, wosp, woch,    wot, wottle, 
quollity, quodrangle, quontity,  quorranteen, quorry, squobble, squod,   squonder, squosh, squot,     cof, trof, lorrle, sossage.


o – e,  -o – (note,  no  –  boat,toe) – [190 – 167]
     In more recently imported English words the long /o/ soundis speltmainly with an ‘open’ o,

 (vote, pro, solo), but in older everyday words the spellings are highly unpredictable,

but some cause no reading difficulties (boast, bold, bolt) and could remain unchanged.

Boat, cloak, coal, coat, croak, float, foal,  foam, gloat, goal, goat, groan, load, loaf,  loan/lone, moan, oaf, oak, oats, poach, road,  roam, shoal, soak, soap, stoat, throat, toad, Approach,   broach/brooch, boast, coachcoast, coastal, coaster, coax, cockroach,  loathe,  poach, roast,  toast.      Knoll,  poll/pole, roll/role, scroll, stroll, toll, troll, swollen, wholly/holy.
Control, enrol, patrol. 
     Bold, cold, fold, gold, hold, old, scold, sold, solder, soldier, told
     Folk, yolk/yoke. Holster. Bolt, colt, dolt, jolt, revolt. Only.  Gross.  
Both, sloth.   Host, most, post, postal, poster
  Mould, moult, soul/sole, shoulder, smoulder. 
Goes. Mauve. Noble
Blown, bowl, grown, growth, known,  moan/mown,  own, shown, sown/sewn, thrown/throne.
Blowbowx2, crow, flow, glow, grow know/no, low, mow, rowx2show, slow, snow, so/sew/sowx2,  stow, throwtow
     Arrow, barrow, bellow, below, billow burrow, elbow, fellow, follow, gallow, hollow marrow, narrow, pillow, shadow, shallow, swallow, sorrow, sparrow, tomorrow wallow, widow, willow, window, yellow.
     Doe,  floe, foe, hoe, roe, sloetoe, woe.  
     Oh/owe.  So/sew.  Dough, though
Bungalow.  Cocoa.  Oboe.  Pharaoh.  Depot.
bote,  cloke,  cole,  cote,  croke,  flote,  fole,   fome,  glote,  gole,  gote,  grone,  lode,  lofe,   lone,  mone, ofe, oke, otes,  rode,   rome,  shole, soke,  sope,   stote,  throte,  tode,   broach,     nole,  pole,  role, scrole, strole, tole, trole,  swolen, holy
controle, enrole, patrole, 
     bold, cold, fold, gold, hold, old, scold, sold, solder, soldier, told, 
     foke, yoke,  holster, bolt, colt, dolt, jolt, revolt, onely,  groce,  
boath, sloath,   hoast, moast, poast, poastal, poaster, 
     mold, molt, sole, sholder,  smolder,  gose, move, nobel,  blone, bole, grone, groath, knone,  mone, one, shone, sone, throne, blo,  bo/bow,  cro, flo, glo, gro,   no,  lo, mo, ro/rou,  sho, slo, sno, so, sou, sto, thro,  to, 
     arro,  barro,  bello,  belo,  billo, burro, elbo,  fello,  follo,  gallo,  hollo,    marro, narro,  pillo,  shaddo,  shallo,    swollo, sorro,  sparro,  tomorro,   wollo,  widdo, willo,  windo,  yello,      do,  flo,  fo,  ho,  ro,  slo,  to,  wo,  
     o,  so,  do,  tho, 
bungalo,  coco,  obo,  faro,  depo,

Older words with  open o:  Ago, also, fro, go, hello, no. 
     Alone, arose, bone, bony, broke, choke, chose, chosen, close, clothes, clover, code, cone, cope, cove, dole, dome, dose, doze, drone, drove, froze, frozen, grocer, grope, hole/whole, holy, home, hope, hose, joke, lone, mole, nose, open, over, poke, pony, pope, primrose, rode, rope, rose, scope, slope, smoke, spoke, stoke, stole, stolen, stone, strode, stroke, tadpole, throne, tone, woke, wove, wrote, yodel, yoke. 
     More recently imported words with open o:

Albino, armadillo, banjo, bingo, buffalo, cargo, cello, disco, domino, duo, dynamo, echo, Eskimo, flamingo, halo, hero, judo, kimono, motto, panto, piano, piccolo, Pluto, polo, potato, pro, pseudo, radio, ratio, solo, soprano, studio, tango, tobacco, tomato, tornado, torpedo, trio, video, volcano, zero.
Alcove, associated, bulldoze, crochet, chrome, commotion, component, compose, casserole, devoted, diploma, dispose, elope, explode, expose, global, heroic, impose, Joseph, jovial, kimono, local, located, lotion, mobile, mode, moment, motel, motive, node, nomad, note, notice, oboe, ocean, October, omen, opal, oppose, opponent, oval, phone, poem, polar, pose, postpone, potion, proboscis, process, programme, promote, proposal, protest, quote, robe, remote, Roman, rover, slogan, sober, sociable, social, socialism, socialist, soda, sofa, solar, suppose, token, total, trombone, utopia, vocal, vote, yodel, zodiac, zone.    

Oi,  -oy – (spoil,  ploy – oyster, buoy) – [29, 12 – 4,1]

Loyal, (loyalty), oyster, royal, (royalty), voyage.
      Boy/buoy.
Loial, (loialty), oister, roial, (roialty), voiage.
Boy.


OO,  -oo – (food, too – rude, do) – [94 – 103]   – with totally unpredictable spellings.

Brutal, brute, crucial, crude,  fluent, fluid,  fluke, flute,  frugal, glucose, intrude, jubilant,  July, June, Jupiter, jury, juvenile,  lubricate, ludo, ludicrous, lukewarm, luminous, lunar, lunatic, plural,   prune, recluse, ruby, rude, ruin, rule, rural, rumour, secluded,  truant, truce, truly, truth, Zulu.        Bruise, cruise, sluice; fruit, recruit. Acoustic, bivouac, boutique, coupon,   group, recoup, route/root, soup, toucan,  tourist, troupe, wound, youth.
     Lose, move, prove
Tomb, womb. Gruesome. Sleuth. Manoeuvre. Shrewd, strewn.
Blew/blue,  flew/flue/flu,  threw/through, brew, crew, drew, grew, screw, shrew,  slew, strew, cashew
   Clue, glue, rue, true, accrue, construe. Gnu, guru. 
Do, who,  lasso.  Canoe
shoo/shoe/choux,,  too/to/two.
brootal,  broot,  croocial,  crood,   flooent,  flooid,  flook,  floot,   froogal,  gloocose,  introod,  joobilent,   July, June, Jupiter,  joory,  joovenile,  loobricate,  loodo,  loodicrous,  lookwarm,  loominous,  looner,  loonatic,  plooral,   proon,  reclooce,  rooby,  rood,   rooin,  rool,  rooral, roomer, seclooded,  trooent,  trooce,  trooly,  trooth,  Zooloo
     broose,  croose,  slooce,  froot,  recroot, acoostic,  bivooac,  booteek,  coopon,   groop,  recoop,  root,  soop,  toocan,   toorist,  troop, woond,  yooth,      looz,  moov,  proov
toom, woom,
  groosum,  slooth,  manoover shrood,  stroon, bloo,  floo,  throo,   broo,  croo,  droo,  groo,  scroo,  shroo,    sloo,  stroo,  cashoo
cloo,  gloo,  roo,  troo,  acroo,  constroo,   noo,  gooroo,  doo,  hoo,  lasoo,  canoo
shoo,   too,

        Long /oo/ spelt oo:

Baboon, balloon, bloom, boom, boon, boost, boot, brood, broom, cartoon, choose, cocoon, cool, doom, droop, food, fool, gloom, goosegroom, groove, harpoon, hoof, hooligan, hoop, hoot, lagoon, loomloop, loose, loosen, loot, macaroon, maroon, mood, moon, moor, moot, mushroom, noodle, noon, noose, pontoon, poodle, pool, poo, poop, poor, proof, roofroom, root, saloon, school, schooner, scoop, scoot, scooter, shoot, smooth, snooker, soon, soothe, spoof, spook, spool, spoon, stool, stoop, swoon, swoop, tool, tooth, troop, whoop, zoom.

Boo, coo, goo, loo, moo, woo, zoo,  bamboo, cockatoo, hullabaloo, igloo, kangaroo, shampoo, tattoo, voodoo, yahoo.   


Short oo  (foot – put) – [15 – 21] – has no spelling of its own. All spellings of it are more common for other sounds (good – food,  should – shoulder, full – dull), so there is no obvious way of improving it.

Good, hood, stood, wood,  book, brook, cook, hook, look, rook, shook, took,  wool, whoosh, foot.   
Cuckoo  Bull, full, pull, bullet, bullion.  Bush, cushion, push, shush.  Put, butcher, pudding, pussy, sugar.      Could, should, would    Wolf, woman.   Courier.

Or – (lord – board) – [188 – 16]  – mostly regular inside words.

Board/bored, course/coarse, hoard/horde, horse/hoarse, court,  resource, source, tournament
Quart, quarter. Warm, warn/worn, wart. War/wore, warble, ward (award, reward), wardrobe, warm, warn/worn, warp, wart, dwarf.
Bord, bored,  corce, hord, horce, cort, resorce, sorce, tornament, quort, quorter, wormworn, wort. Wor, worble, word (aword, reword), wordrobe, worm, worn, worp, wort, dworf.

In endings very unpredictable:  more – nor,  four, more  – [22 – 20 ]

For/four,  (fourth, fourteen,  forty),    nor,    or/oar. 
Door,  floor,  moor,   poor/pour,  tour/tor,  your.
Boar/bore,  roar,  soar.  Abhor.
     Chore, core, fore, gore, more, ore, pore, score,  shore, snore, sore, store, tore, swore, 
adore, ashore, before, carnivore, folklore,  ignore, implore.
For, forth, forteen,   nor,   or, dor, flor, mor,  por,  tor, yor, bor, ror, sor, abor, chor, cor, for, gor, mor, or, por, scor,  shor, snor, sor, stor, tor, swor,  ador, ashor, befor, carnivor, fokelor,  ignor, implor.

In standard UK English the regular  aw  endings   have the same sound as  ore

Awe, claw, draw,  flaw, gnaw, jaw, saw, straw, thaw, law, paw, raw.


Ou,  -ow – (sound, now – brown, bough) – mainly ou inside words and  -ow at the end,

                    with a few exceptions

Flour/flower, our/hour,   power, shower, tower. Brown, clown, crown, down, drown, frown,  gown, town. 
Crowd, powder. Coward
Fowl/foul , growl, howl, owl, prowl, scowl,  towel
Browse, drowse.  Brow, cow, how, now, vow, wow, allow, miaow, Bough/bowx2,  rowx2, sowx2,  sloughx2,  ploughthou.
flour our,   pouer,  shouer,  touer, broun, cloun, croun, doun, droun, froun,  goun, toun, 
croud,  pouder, couerd
foul,  groul, houl, oul, proul, scoul,  touelbrouse, drouse
 
bow/bo,  
row/ro,  sow/so,   slow/sluf,     plow,  thou,

In early English, the letter v spelt both the short /u/ and /v/ sounds. Later v and u were used interchangeably. Early printers deliberately misspelt many a sinlge u with w by doubling a v.

Qu – (quick – acquit) – [78 – 4]

Acquaint, acquire, acquit.   Choir.Aquaint, aquire, aquit.   Quire.


R – (run – wrong, rhubarb) – [1,670 – 27]

Wrangle,  rap/wrap,   wrath, wreck, wren, wrench, wrestle, wretch, wreak/reek, wreath, wriggle,  ring/wring,  wrinkle, wrist, written,  
right/rite/write,  writhe, wrong,  wrote/rote, rung/wrung,  rye/wry.
 Rhythm, rhyme/rime, rhinoceros, rhododendron,   rhubarb, rheumatism.
rangle,  rap,   rath(US)/roth(UK), reck, ren, rench,  ressle, rech, reek, reeth, riggle,  ring,  rinkle, rist, ritten,  
rite,  rithe, rong,  rote,  rung,  ry.
 Rithm, rime, rinosserus, rododendron,   roobarb,  rumatism.


S  –  (set, sit) – /s/ before e, i and y at the beginning of words – [70 s –   30 c, 5 sc).

Sell/cell,   seller/cellar,   sent/cent/scent
Celebrate, celery, cellophane, cement, cemetery, centigrade, central, centre,  entury, certain, certificatex2,  ceremony
Seen/scene,  scenery.  Cease, cedar, ceiling, cereal
Cigar, cigarette, cinder, cinema,  circle, circuit, circular, circulate, circumference, circumstance, circus,
cistern, citizen, citrus, city, civic,  civil, civilian, civilisation, civilise.  Cygnet/signet.  Scissors.
Cider, site/cite/sight. Cycle.  Science, scythe.
Sell,   seller,   sent
Sellebrate, sellery, sellofane, sement, semmetery, sentigrade, sentral, senter,  sentury, serten, sertificat(n)/sertificate(v), serremony. 
Seen,  seenery.   Seece, seedar, seeling,  seereal. 
Sigar, sigaret, sinder, sinnema,  sircle, sirkit, sirculer, sirculate,  sircumference, sircumstance, sircus, sistern, sittizen, sitrus, sitty, sivvic,  sivvil, sivillian, sivilisation, sivvilise.  Signet.  Sizzers.
Sider,  site.  Sikel.   Sience, sithe.

 (Concern – consent) – inside words ce and ci are the main spellings – [70 – 36]

Absent, abscess,  advertisement, arsenic, ascend, ascertain,  consent, consequence, conservative, condescend, descend, descent,  insect, insert, morsel, persevere. 
Analysis, basic, basin, consider, consist, crisis, disciple, discipline,  emphasis, insist, oasis,  persistent, responsible, tonsil, university,  utensil.   Capsize, prehensile.   proboscis
abcent, abces,  adverticement, arcenic, acend,  acertain,  concent, concequence, concervative, condecend,  decend, decent,  incect, incert, morcel, perceveer,   
anallicis, bacic, bacin, concider, concist, cricis, deciple, diciplin, emfacis, incist, oacis,  percistent, responcible, toncil, univercity,  utencil,   capcize, prehencile, probocis,

With ce and ci:

Ancestors, cancel, cancer, concentrate, concept, conception, concern, concert, December, decent, grocer, innocent, license, licentious, magnificent, necessity, parcel, percent, perception, pincer, porcelain, princess, process, procession, reception, recent, recess, rhinoceros, saucer.
   Conceal. Conceit, conceive, deceit, deceive, receipt, receive.
Facetious, precede, procedure. Proceed, proceedings, proceeds. Plasticine. 
Council/counsel, criticism, deciduous, decision, facilities, hyacinth, incident, medicine, narcissus, Pacific, participation, pencil, precision, principal, principle, specific, stencil.
Coincide, decide, decisive, decipher, docile, exercise, precise, recite,  suicide;  society.

In unstressed endings,  the spelling of the /s/-sound and the vowel before it  are both unpredictable,  (practice – promise, tennis, fortress).  

The  –is ending  is the most logical:  axis, bronchitis, chrysalis,  crisis,  emphasis, hypothesis, iris, oasis pelvis, proboscis, synthesis, tennis, trellistonsillitis;  atlas, canvas, Christmas, pampas, pyjamas

 A practice/to practise (in UK only),  apprentice, armistice, coppice, crevice, justice, notice, novice, office, precipice, service. Premise, promiseMenace, necklace, palace, purchace, surface, terrace.   
    Carcass, compass, embarrass, trespass.
Abscess, access, congress, cypress, fortress, mattress, process, progressx2, recess, harness, witness.     Purpose,  tortoise.   Lettuce.
Practis, apprentis, armistis, coppis, crevvis, justis, notis, novvis, offis, precipis, servis. Premmis, prommis. Mennas, necklas, pallas, purchas, surfas, terras.   
 Carcas, compas, embarras, trespas.
Abcesaxes, congres, ciperes, fortres, matres, proces, progress(n), progress(v), reces, harnes, witnes.     Purpos,  tortois.   Lettis.


-ce  (face, ice, fence – base, precise, dense) – final s-sound– [153 – 56]
         (-se is the main spelling for /z/ endings, e.g. phrase,  rise,  chose)

      Base, case, chase
Cease, crease, grease, increase, release,  geese, these.  
Concise, precise. Dose Goose, loose, noose, mouse.
Close x2,  house x2,   excuse x2,  use x2.
  [too cloce to close…,    no uce, to use]
Bace, cace, chace. Ceece, creece, greece, increece, releece,  geece, theece.   Concice, precice. Doce.  Gooce, looce, nooce, mouce.  Cloce/close,  houce/house,   excuce/excuse, uce/use        (e.g. too cloce  to close)

 -ce  – (fence, force,  else) is also the main spelling for a final s-sound after consonants,  

           with 35 exceptions:

Dense, expanse, expense, immense,  intense, licensenonsense, response,  rinse, sense, suspense, tense.      Else, pulse, impulse. 
Col
lapse, copse, corpse, eclipse,  elapse, glimpse, lapse.  Coarse/course,  hoarse/ horse,   curse, gorse, nurse, purse, rehearse,  reverse, universe, verse, worse.
Dence, expance, expence, imence,  intence,   licence, nonsence, responce,  rince, sence, suspence, tence.    Elce, pulce, impulce. 
Colapce, copce, corpce, eclipce,  elapce, glimpce, lapce.    Corce,  horce,   curce,  gorce, nurce, purce, reherce,   reverce, univerce, verce, werce.



-s- – (nasal) – Inside words, between vowels in themain spelling for the z-sound, except:

Bazaar, blazer, brazen, frozen gazelle, hazel, horizon, lozenge, magazine, razor, tweezers.  Desert x2.Basaar, blaser, brasen, frose,  gasell, hasel, horison, losenge, magaseen, raser, tweesers. A dezzert, to desert.

With s for medial /z/:

Acquisition, busy, chisel, chrysanthemum, closet, cousin, daisy, deposit, deserve, design, designate, desire, desolate, diesel, easel, easy, episode, exquisite, fuselage, geyser, hesitate, Joseph, miser, miserable, mosaic, museum, music, nasal, opposite, partisan, peasant, pheasant, physical, physiological, pleasant, poison, position, positive, presence, present, presentation, preserve, president, presumably, prison, proposal, proposition, raisin, realisation, reason, resemble, resentment, reserve, reservoir, residence, resign, resolution, resolve, resort, result, resume, risen, rosette, thousand, treason, visible, visit, weasel.


-se – (rise, wise – size) – main spelling for a z-sound in endings – [205 – 26],

except:    

Blaze, craze, crazy, gaze, graze, haze, laze, lazy, maze, raze, amaze
Breeze, freeze, sneeze, squeeze, wheeze. Trapeze. Seize.
Prize, size, capsize.
Doze, froze, bulldoze.  Ooze, booze.
Blase, crase, crasy, gase, grase, hase, lase, lasy, mase, rase, amase
Breese, freese, sneese, squeese, weese. Trapeese. Seese.
Prise, sise, capcise.
Dose, frose, bulldose. ose, boose.

In US also:  Advertize, agonize, apologize, authorize, baptize, characterize, civilize, computerize, emphasize, fertilize, hypnotize, idolize, memorize, merchandize, organize, realize, recognize, sterilize, synchronize, tantalize.  – In UK English they are spelt  with  -ise.


Sh – (ship, fish – chivalrous, avalanche) –  at the beginning or end of words [166 – 14]

Chalet, champagne, chandelier, charade
chef, chivalrous, chute
Sugar, sure (insure).
Moustache, avalanche, microfiche; liquorice.
Shallayshampain, shandeleer, sharade
shef, shivvalrous, shute
Shugger, shure (inshure),
Mustash, avalansh, microfeesh; lickorish,

In the middle of words, the /sh/ sound is spelt very irregulary.

  Bishop, cashew, mushroom, usher, marshal.  Ancient, appreciate, efficient, sufficient, associate, species. Assure, pressure, issue, tissue
Crochetx2,  machine, parachute
     Conscience, fascism.  Patient.
     Ainshent, appreeshiate, efishent, sufishent, asoshiate, speeshes. Ashure, preshure, ishue, tishue
Crochet/croshay,   masheen,  parrashoot. 
     Conshence, fashism. Pashent.


-si-, -su – (vision, exposure) – for relatively uncommon  zh-sound:
Asia, conclusion, confusion, decision, diffusion, explosion, division, Indonesia, illusion, invasion, occasion, precision, provision, supervision, vision, (television), 
Casual, usual, exposure, leisure, measure, pleasure, treasure.
    With very few exceptions:

Azure, bourgeois, fissure.Asure, borjua, fisure.



T – (top, pot) – very regular in the stem of words [1,398 – 5]

Two/toopterodactyl;  debt, doubt, subtle.too, terodactil; det, dout, suttle.


-tch – (itch) – for /ch/-sound after short vowels. – See Ch.


th – (this thing) – no other spellings for either of the two sounds.

It would be easy to add a new spelling for one of the two sounds (perhaps dh – dhin, dhing). But as the lack of different spellings for them does not appear to cause many problems, this is not an urgent matter. 

-ti-  -main spelling for /sh/-sound inside endings (palatial,  ignition,  ambitious, convention),

       but with exceptions:   facial,  mission, delicious, extension– [151 – 72]

Facial, glacial, racial, social, crucial financial, commercial,   controversial.
Artificial, beneficial, judicial, official, sacrificial, special, superficial. 
Auspicious, avaricious, delicious, judicious, malicious, officious, pernicious, suspicious, vicious.
Pugnacious, vivacious, audacious, rapacious, spacious, tenacious, voracious
Atrocious, ferocious, precocious. Precious.    
Conscious, anxious.  Luscious.   
Admission, commission, emission, mission,  permission, transmission, fission. 
Suspicion.
Discussion, percussion. Cushion
Comprehension, condescension, dimension, expansion, extension, mansion, pension, 
      suspension, tension.
Aspersion, conversion, dispersion, diversion, immersion, inversion, subversion, version, excursion, incursion.  Coercion. Ration.  Fashion.  Passion.  ocean.
Fatial,  glatial,  ratial,  sotial,  crutial,   finantial,  commertial,    controvertial.
Artifitial,  benefitial,  juditial,  ofitial,  sacrifitial,  spetial,  superfitial. 
Auspitious,  avaritious,  delitious,  juditious,  malitious,  ofitious,  pernitious,  suspitious,  vitious.
Pugnatious,  vivatious,  audatious,  rapatious,  spatious,  tenatious,  voratious. 
Atrotious,  ferotious,  precotious.  Pretious.    
Contious, anctious. Lushous. Admition,  commition,  emition,  mition,   permition,  transmition,  fision. 
Suspition. Discution,  percution. Cution. 
Comprehention,  condecention,  dimention,  expantion,  extention,  mantion,  pention,  
      suspention,  tention.
Aspertion,  convertion,  dispertion,  divertion,  immertion,  invertion,  subvertion,  vertion,  excurtion,  incurtion.  Coertion. Ration, fation, pation, otian.


U – (run – done) – [308 – 68
     Next to  m,  n  and  v,  the short/u/ sound is often spelt o,  

    *  and often without a doubled consonant after it too:

Monday, money*, monger, mongrel, monk,  monkey, month,  mother, smother.
  Come,   some/sum.   Comfort,  company,  compass pommel,  stomach*.      Nothing.   Son/sun,  ton.    Among,  front,  tongue, sponge. 
Donenone/nun.   Honey*, onion*. 
   Won/one, wonder.  Once.    Above, cover*, covet*, covey*, covenant*,  dove, glove,  govern*,  love,  oven*,   shove,  shovel*,  slovenly*
           Country, nourish*, young. Enough.
Munday, munny, munger, mungrel, munk,  munky, munth,  muther, smuther.
     Cum, sum.  Cumfort,  cumpany,  cumpas,   pummel,  stummac.       Nuthing.   Sun,  tun.    Amung,  frunt,  tung, spunge. 
     Dun, nun.   Hunny,  unnion. 
     Wun, wunder.  Wunce.
    Abuv, cuvver, cuvvet, cuvvy, cuvvenant,  duv, gluv,  guvvern,  luv,  uvven,   shuv,  shuvvle,  sluvvenly. 
           Cuntry, nurrish, yung.  Enuff.

A few other words have irregular spellings for the short u-sound, not next to  m,  n  or  v:

Double*, trouble.  Blood,  flood. Rough,  slough,  tough.  Cousin*,  dozen*.
Colour*,  does.  Southern.  Hiccough [hickup].
Courage*,  thorough*.  WorryTouchCouple*.  Other,  brother.
Dubble, trubble.  Blud,  flud. Ruf,  sluf,  tuf.  Cuzzen,  duzzen.
Culler,  dus.  Suthern.  Hickup
Currage,  thurru.  Wurry. Tuch. Cupple.  Uther,  bruther. 


u – e,  -ue – (use, tuba; due) – with few exceptions in the stem of words – [137 – 26]                        

eucalyptus, ewer
feud, feudal, jewel                            
lewd, neutral, newt, nuclear,
beauty, nuisance, pewter, pneumatic, pseudo,
rheumatism,
sewage, stewardsuicidesuitable, suitcase,
juice, Tuesday, you/ewe/yew,   youth,
ucalyptus, uer
fude, fudal, juel                            
lude, nuteral, nute, nukelear,
buty, nusance, puter, numatic, sudo,
rumatism,
suage, stuardsucidesutable, sutecase,
juce, Tuseday, u,   yooth,

In endingsless predictable – [18 – 19]

Argue, avenue, barbecue, continue, imbue, issue, pursue,  rescue, revenue, statue, subdue, sue, tissue, 
 value, devalue, venue, virtue.

Cue/queue,   due/dew,
Chew, few, Jew, knew/new, pew, spew, stew.
 Askew, curfew, curlew, mildew, nephew. 
View, interview, review.       Emumenu.
Cue,   due,   
Chue,  fue,  Jue,   nue,  pue,  spue,  stue.
 Askue,  curfue,  curlue,  mildue,  neffue. 
Vue,  intervue,  revue.     Emue,  mennue.


W – (went, with – when, whip) – [216  – 31]

Whack, whale, wharf, what.
Whelk, when,   where/wear, whether/weather,  whey, overwhelm. Wheedle, wheel, wheeze. Whiff, whimper, whip, whirl, whirring, whisk, whiskers, whisky/whiskey, whisper, which,  whistle, whiz. While, whilst, wine/whine, white, why.  Whoosh.
Wack, wale, worf, wot.
Welk,  wen,     wair,  wether,  way,  overwelm.   Weedle,  weel,  weese. Wif,  wimper,  wip,  wirl,  wirring,  wisk,  wiskers,  wisky,  wisper,  wich,   wissle, wiz.  Wile,  wilest,  wine,  wite,  wy.  Woosh.


 X – (exit, fix) – main spelling for the ks-sound – [98 –  15]

Accent, accept, access, accelerate, accident. 
            Eccentric. Success, succeed, succinct.
Excellent, except, excess, exceed, excite.  Exhibition.
Axent,  axept,  axes,  axellerate,  axident. 
            Exentric,  suxess,  suxeed,  suxinct.
Exellent, exept, exess, exeed, exite.  Exibition.

  In a few words x is pronounced gz:

Anxiety, exact, exaggerate, examine example, exasperate, exert, exist,    exhaust.Angziety, egzact, egzadgerate, egzammin, egzample, egzasperate, egzert, egzist,    egzaust.


–y  – (baby, boldly) – main spelling for an unstressed final /ee/-sound – [475 – 39]  

Abbey,  alley,  attorney,  bogey,  chimney,  chutney,  cockney,  covey,  donkey,   hockey,  holey,  honey,  jersey,  jockey,   journey,  kidney,  medley,  money,  monkey,  parsley,  pulley,  story/storey,   trolley,   turkey,  valley,  volley,   whisky/whiskey (US). 
  Brownie,  budgie,  caddie,  collie,  cookie,    eerie,  genie,  movie,  pixie,  prairie,  wheelie.
Abby,  ally,  attorny,  bogy,  chimny,  chutny,  cocny,  cuvvy,  donky,   hocky,  holy,  hunny,  jersy,  jocky,   jurny,  kidny,  medly,  munny,  munky,  parsly,  pully,  story,  trolly,  turky,  vally,  volly,   wisky. Brouny,  budgy,  caddy,  colly,  cooky,   eery,  jeeny,  moovy,  pixy,  prairy,  weely .


-y  –  (fly)   is also the most frequent but unpredictable spelling for a stressed final ie-sound – [16 – 14]:
          Cry, dry, fly, fry, my, ply, pry, shy, sky, sly, spy, sty, thy, try, why, wry.

By/buy/bye,   die/dye, lie, pie, tie, vie.  High, nigh, sigh, thigh.   Rye. Guy.By, Dy,  ly, py, ty, vy.   Hy, ny, sy, thy.    Ry. Gy.

It creates reading problems in 7 longer words:
     Ally, apply, deny, supply, magnify, multiply, rely,  verify – (Cf. tally, subtly, puffy…).

They would be better as: allye, aplye, denye, relye, suplye, magnifye, multiplye, verrifye.


Z – (zap, rise) –[16- 1] for an initial /z/ sound: 

Zany, zap, zeal, zebra, zenith, zero, zest, zigzag, zinc, zip, zither, zodiac, zone, zoo, zoom, Zulu.

xylophonezilofone

 In the middle of words the main spelling for the z-sound is (desire, result) and in 
endings –se (rise). –  See –s- and –se.

2) Unstressed vowel problems

Only stressed English vowels can be heard clearly, and most English words have just one of them

(butter, describe, understand). The unstressed vowels range from fairly audible (bicycle) to almost nonexistent.

      They occur mainly in endings and prefixes, and their spellings are very irregular:

laughable – compatible,   primary – mistery – factory,   madden – abandon – urban – villain, 

confidence – guidance,   competent – distant,   fitter – actor; 

deserve – disaster; indulge – endager.

      Because their spellings take much learning, and because it helps to exaggerate their pronunciation while doing so, many people end up thinking that they can detect differences in their pronunciation and would find their altered appearance shocking. In ordinary speech, all unstressed vowels sound much the same.

      They cause no reading difficulties. Standardising them would therefore not make learning to read English any easier, only to spell. They are therefore perhaps in less urgent need of reform, despite creating much pointless memorisation of spellings. 

 –able/ –ible – [33 – 17] –  (doable – feasible)

 Audible, compatible, edible, feasible, flexible, horrible,  incredible, invisible, permissible, possible, responsible, sensible, terrible, visible,      eligible, legible, illegible, tangible.Audable, compatable, edable, feesable, flexable, horrable, incredable, invisable, permissable, possable, responsable, sensable, terrable, visable,   

  -al/ el/ –ol  (oval – gravel – devil) – [213 – 31]

Caramel, cockerel, colonel, cruel, diesel, drivel, duel, easel, fuel, gravel, hazel, hostel, jewel, label, novel, spaniel, towel, vowel, weasel.
Civil, devil, evil, pupil.
Capitol, carol, cholesterol, idol, parasol, petrol, pistol, symbol/cymbal.
Caramal, cockeral, curnal, crual, diesal, drivval, dual, eesal, fual, gravval, hazal, hostal, jewal, labal, novval, spannial, towal, vowal, weasal.
Civval, devval, eval, pupal.
Cappital, carral, colesteral, idal, parrasal, petral, pistal,  simble.

-le – (dangle, apple – channelmorsel) – [175 – 27] –  -le is the main spelling for a final l-sound  after several consonants,  except:

Kernel, kestrel, mongrel, satchel, scoundrel. 
Anvil, nostril
Council/counsel, morsel, parcel
pencil, stencil, tonsil, utensil. Channel, flannel, funnel, kennel, pommel, pummel, tunnel,    barrel, quarrel,  squirrel, tassel, vessel, muscle/mussel.
Kernle, kestrle, mongrle, satchle, scoundrle. 
Anvle, nostrle. 
Counsle, morsle, parsle, 
pensle, stensle, tonsle, utensle. Channle, flannle, funnle, kennle,  pommle, pummle, tunnle,    barrle, quorrle,  squirrle, tassle, vessle,  mussle.




ary / -ery / -ory / -ry –  (37 –ary / 58 others)- utterly unpredictable.

            ‘Carpentry, chemistry, etc.’ suggest that the vowels before –ry are nearly all redundant. 
Adversary, anniversary, arbitrary, aviary, boundary, burglary, commentary, contemporary, contrary, diary, dictionary, elementary, estuary, February, January, library, literary, military, monetary, necessary, ordinary, planetary, preliminary, primary, pulmonary, reactionary, revolutionary, salary, secondary, secretary, solitary, stationary, summary, temporary, veterinary, vocabulary, voluntary.

Archery, artery, artillery, blustery, celery, cemetery, colliery, crockery, delivery, discovery, drudgery, every, gallery, jewellery, lottery, machinery, monastery, mystery, nursery, pottery, recovery, robbery, scenery, stationery/stationarysurgery
   Category, dormitory, factory, history,inventory, ivory, laboratory, memory, observatory, satisfactory, territory, theory
     Century, injury, luxury, Mercury, mercury,   treasury.      Savoury. Carpentry, chemistry, country, entry,  gantry, industry, infantry,  paltry, pantry, pastry, poetry,  poultry, symmetry, tapestry.
Archary, artary, artillary, blustary, sellary, semmetary, colliary, crockary, delivary, discovary, drudgery, evry, gallary, jewellary, lottary, masheenary, monastary, mistary, nursary, pottary, recovary, robbary, seenary, stationary, surgery
   Categary, dormitary, factary, histary, inventary, ivary, laboratary, memmary, observatary, satisfactary, territary, theary
     Century, injury, luxury, Mercury, mercury, treasury.      Savoury. Carpentry, chemistry, country, entry,  gantry, industry, infantry,  paultry, pantry, pastery, poetry,  poultry, symmetry, tapestry.

-en / -on / -an /-ain /-in – (fasten, certain, apron…) – [74 – 132] – unpredictable:
With –en: Abdomen, alien, awaken, barren, batten/baton, bitten, bracken, brazen, brighten, chicken, children, chosen, christen, citizen, delicatessen, dozen, driven, eleven, even, fallen, forgotten, frighten, frozen, garden, given, glisten, golden, happen, heathen, heaven, hidden, hydrogen, kindergarten, kitchen, kitten, laden, lessen/lesson, lichen, listen, loosen, madden, mitten, often, omen, open, oven, oxygen, pollen, raven, ridden, ripen, risen, rotten, sadden, seven, sharpen, sodden, specimen, spoken, stamen, stolen, strengthen, sudden, sullen, swollen, taken, threaten, token, vixen, warren, women, wooden, woollen, written.

   Abandon, apron, baconbadminton, baron/barren, beacon, beckon, bison, carbon, carton, cauldron, common, comparison, cordon, cotton, coupon, crayon, crimson, damson, demon,  dragon, electron,  flagon, gallon,  heron, horizon, iron, jettison, lemon, mason, matron, melon, mutton, nylon, octagon, pardon, pentagon, person, phenomenon, piston, poison, prison,   pylon, python, reason, reckon, ribbon, salmon, salon, Saxon, season, sermon, siphon, skeleton, summon, talon,  treason, venison, wagon, wanton, weapon. Chameleon, dungeon, luncheon,   pigeon, surgeon, truncheon. 
   Alsatian, amphibian, cardigan,  Christian, civilian, comedian, Dalmatian, historian, hooligan, Indonesian, magician, metropolitan, musician, ocean, optician, organ, orphan, partisan, pedestrian, pelican, republican, Roman, rowan, ruffian, slogan, suburban, tartan, toucan, turban, urban, utopian, vegetarian, veteran, woman
Hurricane. 
Bargain, captain, certain, fountain, mountain, porcelain, villain. 
   The -in endings are perhaps a little different?
Aspirin, basin, bulletin, cabin, catkin, coffin, cousin, dolphin, gherkin, goblin, javelin, origin, paraffin, penguin,  pumpkin, raisin, robin, satin, sequin, tarpaulin, urchin, vermin.
Abanden, apren, bacon, badminton, barren,  beaconbecken, bisen, carben, carten, cauldren, commen,  comparisen, corden, cotten, coopen,  crayen, crimsen, damsen, deemen,  draggen, electren, flaggen, gallen,  herren, horizen, iren, jettisen, lemmen, masen, matren, mellen, mutten, nylen, octagen, parden, pentagen, persen, fenommenen, pisten, poisen, prizzen,  pilen, pithen, reesen, recken, ribben, sammen, sallen, Saxen, seesen, sermen, siphen, skelleten, summen, tallen,  treesen, vennisen, waggen, wonten, weppen. Cameelen, dungen, lunchen,  pigen, surgen, trunchen. Alsatien, amphibien, cardigan, Cristien, civillien, comeedien, Dalmatien, historien, hooligan, Indonesien, magicien, metropolliten, musicien, ocean, opticien, organ, orfen, partisen, pedestrien,  pelican, republican, Romen, rowen,  ruffien, slogan, suburben, tarten, toucan, turben, urben, utopien, vegetarien, vetteren,   woman.
Hurrican. 
Bargan, capten, serten, founten,   mounten, porcelen, villen. 

Aspirin, basin, bulletin, cabin, catkin, 
coffin, cousin, dolphin, gherkin, goblin, javelin, origin, paraffin, penguin,  pumpkin, raisin, robin, satin, sequin, tarpaulin, urchin, vermin.

-ence/-ance – (commence / ambulance) – [33 – 26]:
 With –ence:  Absence, adolescence, circumference, commence, competence, conference, confidence, consequence, difference, essence, evidence, existence, experience, independence, indifference, influence, innocence, insolence, intelligence, interference, licence, occurrence, offence, presence, providence, reference, science, sentence, sequence, silence, violence, conscience, patience.

Abundance, acceptance, accordance,   alliance, allowance, ambulance,  appearance, appliance, assurance,   balance, distance, endurance,   finance, fragrance, guidance,  ignorance, importance, instance,  insurance, maintenance, nuisance, performance, resistance, substance, vengeance,  significance,Abundence, acceptence, acordence,  alience, alowence, ambulence,  apeerence,  aplience, ashurence,  ballence, distence, endurence,  finence, fragrence, guidence,  ignorence, importence, instence,  inshurence, maintenence, nusence,  performence, resistence, substence, vengence,   significance,

-ent / -ant – (competent/ protestant) – [107 – 35]

Assistant, brilliant, covenant, defiant, distant, elephant, fragrant, gallant, giant, ignorant, important, infant, instant, jubilant, lieutenant(UK/US differences) merchant, pageant, peasant, pheasant, pleasant, protestant, relevant, remnant, restaurant, sergeant, sextant, truant, tyrant, valiant, warrant.
Applicant, descant, significant, vacant. Extravagant,
Assistent, brillient, covvenent, defient, distent, ellefent, fragrent, gallent, gient, ignorent, importent, infent, instent, jubilent, lieutenant, merchent, padgent, pezzent,  fezzent, plezzent, protestent, rellevent, remnent, restaurant, sergent, sextent, truent, tirent, valient, worrent.
Applicant, descant, significant, vacant. Extravagant,

-er   /-or /-our… – (after, actor, nectar, armour;  butcher, culture) – [315 – 170]
     In US English 7 words which have –re endings in the UK have already been modernised.

Additionally, 18 British –our endings have been shortened to –or (labour – labor) in US, but these still need to be learned as exceptions from the –er pattern, just like the other 75 words which end in –or.

Centre, fibre, ogre, sabre, theatre, kilometre (UK) Metre/meter (UK) With -or in US, -our in UK: Armour, behaviour, colour, favour, flavour, glamour, harbour, honour, humour, labour, neighbour, odour, parlour, rumour,  saviour, savour, splendour, tumour.Center, fiber, oger, saber, theater, kilometre (US) Meter (US)   Armer, behavier, culler, faver, flaver, glammer, harber, onner, humer, laber, naber, oder, parler, rumer,  savier,  saver, splender, tumer.
Actor, advisor, alligator, ambassador,  ancestor, anchor, assessor, author, boaconstrictor, calculator, castor,  conductor, conveyor, corridor,  decorator, demonstrator, director, doctor,  editor, elevator, emperor, equator, error,  escalator, factor, gladiator, governor,  indicator, interior, inventor, investor,   junior, juror, legislator,  liquor, major, manor, mayor, minor,  mirror, monitor, motor, navigator,  operator, orator, prior, professor,  proprietor, radiator, razor, rector, refrigerator, respirator, rotor,  scissors, senator, senior, sensors,  solicitor, spectator, sponsor, successor,  superior, supervisor, surveyor, survivor, tailor, tenor, terror, tractor, traitor, tutor, victor, visitor, warrior.   Angular, burglar, caterpillar, cellar,  circular, collar, dollar, familiar,  rammar, jaguar, liar, lunar, muscular,  nectar, particular, peculiar, pillar,  polar, poplar, popular, regular,   scholar, secular, similar, solar,  spectacular, sugar, vicar, vulgar.    Answerchauffeur, jodhpurs, martyr. Conjure, exposure, injure, leisure, measure,  pleasure, treasure, procedure.      Adventure, agriculture, architecture,  capture, caricature, creature, culture,  departure, expenditure, feature, fracture,  furniture, future, gesture,  lecture, legislature, literature,  manufacture, miniature, mixture,  nature, picture,   puncture, scripture, signature, structure,  temperature, torture, venture, vulture.     In UK English the –a ending in the following 64 words is pronounced much like an –er one too.
   Algebra, antenna, area, arena, armada, asthma, banana, cafeteria, camera, capita, china, cinema, cobra, dahlia, data, dilemma, diploma, drama, era, extra, formula, gala, gondola, gorilla, gymkhana, hydrangea, hyena, idea, larva, lava, llama, malaria, militia, nebula, opera, orchestra, panda, panorama, peninsula, piazza, piranha, pizza, pneumonia, propaganda, pupa, quota, regatta, replica, soda, sofa, stigma, tarantula, tiara, tuba, tundra, umbrella, utopia, vanilla, veranda, via, villa, yoga, zebra. Cheetah.
Acter, adviser, alligater, ambassader, ancester, anker, assesser, auther, boaconstricter, calculater, caster,   conducter, convayer, corrider,   decorater, demonstrater, directer, docter,  editer, ellevater, emperer, equater, errer, escalater, facter, gladiater, governer,  indicater, inteerier, inventer, invester,  junier, jurer, legislater, licker, majer, manner, mayer, miner,  mirrer, monniter, moter, navvigater,  opperater, orrater, prier, professer,  proprieter, radiater, razer, recter,   refrigerater, respirater, roter,  sizzers, sennater, seenier, sensers,  solissiter, spectater, sponser, suxesser,  superier, superviser, survayer, surviver,  tailer, tenner, terrer, tracter, traiter,  tuter, victer, visiter, worrier.    Anguler, burgler, catterpiller, celler,  circuler, coller, doller, famillier,  grammer, jaguer, lier, luner, musculer,  necter, partickuler, peculier, piller,  poler, popler, poppuler, regguler,  scoller, seckuler, simmiler, soler,   spectackuler, shugger, vicker, vulger. Anser, shofer, joppers, marter. Conjer, exposure, injer, lesure, mesure, plesure, tresure,  proceedure.              Cf:  Butcher, catcher, pitcher. Advencher, agriculcher, architeccher, capcher, carricacher, creecher, culcher, deparcher, expendicher, feecher, fraccher, furnicher, fucher, jescher,   leccher, legislacher, litteracher,   manufaccher, miniacher, mixcher,  nacher, piccher,  punccher, scripcher, signacher, struccher,  temperacher, torcher, vencher, vulcher.     Respelling them with –er would not suit US English and would seem odd in UK English too, e.g. algebrer, antenner, airer, armader…    They had probably best remain irregular for another few centuries.

De– / di- – (devise, divide) – as unstressed prefix – ( 56 de-, 28 di-):

Dictate, diffusion, dilapidated, dilemma,  diploma, diplomatic, disappear, disaster,  discharge, disciple, discover, discuss,  disease, disguise, disgust, dismantle,  dismay, displace, display, dispose,  dispute, distinct, distribute, disturb,  divide, divine, divorce. Dectate, defusion, delappidated, delemma, deploma, deplomatic, desapeer, desaster,  descharge, deciple, descover, descuss,  deseese, desguise, desgust, desmantle,  desmay, desplace, desplay, despose,  despute, destinct, destribute, ,  desturb,  devide, devine, devorce.

Compare:

 decide (decision, decisive), deciduous, decipher, declare, decline, deduct, defeat,   defect, defend, defiant, define, degree, delay, delicious, delight, deliver, demand,  democratic, demolish, deny, depart, department, depend, deport, deposit, depress, derive,   descend, describe, deserve, design, despair, despatch, despise, despite, destination, destroy, detach, detain, detect, detention, detergent, determine, detest, devalue, develop, devise,  devote, devour.


In– / en– – (increase, enquire) – [73 – 30]

     Some people make an effort to pronounce the unstressed en– prefix as en– rather than in-, but in most people’s normal speech they sound the same: infect, enforce, inject, enjoy, intrude, entertain…

Enable, enamel, encamp, enchant, encircle, enclose, encounter, encourage, encrusted, endanger, endeavour, endure, engage, enforce, engrave, engulf, enjoy, enlarge, enlist, enquire, enrage, enrol, entangle, entertain, enthusiastic, entire, entitled, environment.Inable, inammel, incamp, inchant, insircle, inclose, incounter, incourage, incrusted, indanger, indevvour, indure, ingage, inforce, ingrave, ingulf, injoy, inlarge, inlist, inquire, inrage, inrol, intangle, intertain, inthusiastic, intire, intitled, invironment.

3) Irregularly doubled consonants

When the 226 one-syllable words in the box below

Bag,  bat,  can,  cap,  cat,  chat,  clam,  clan,  clap,  crab,  dab,  dam,  drab,  drag,  fad,  fan,  fat,  flap,  flat,  gag,  glad,  grab,  ham,  hat,  scrap,  scan,  sap,  sag,  sad,  rat,  rap,  ram,  plan,  pat,  pan ,  pad,  nag,  mat,  map,  mad,  lap,  lag,  jam,  jab,  slam,  slap,  snap,  span,  stab,  strap,  tag,  tan,  tap,  trap,  wag,  wrap,  yap,  zap,  bed,  beg,  bet,  fret,  get,  hem,  jet,  leg,  let,  net,  peg,  pen,  red,  set,  stem,  step,  trek,  vet,  web,  wet, bid,  big,  bin,  bit,  brim,  chip,  clip,  crib,  dig,  dim,   dip,   drip,  fit,  flip,  flit,  grim,  grin,  grip,  grit,  hip,  hit,  jig,  kid,  lid,  lip,  pig,  pin,  pip,  quit,  quiz,  rib,  rid,  rig,  rim,  rip,  shin,  ship,  sin,  sit,  skid,  skim,  skin,  skip,  slim,  slip,  slit,  snip,  spin,  spit,  split,  strip,  swim,  thin,  tin,  tip,  trim,  trip,  twig,  twin,  whiz,  win,  wit,  zip, blot,  bob,  bog,  chop,  cop,  crop,  dog,  don,  dot,  drop,  flog,  flop,  fog,  grog,  hog,  hop,  hot,  job,  jog,  jot,  knot,  lob,  log,  lop,  mob,  mop,  nod,  plod,  plot,  pod,  pot,  prod,  prop,  rob,  rot,  shop,  slog,  snob,  sob,  spot,  stop,  throb,  top,  tot,  trot,  but,  club,  cub,  cup,  cut,  drug,  drum,  fun,  glum,  grub,  gun,  hug,  hum,  jug,  jut,  lug,  mud,  mug,  nut,  plug,  plum,  run, scrub,  shrub,  shrug,  shun,  shut,  slug,  slum,  strum,  strut,  stud,  stun,  sum,  sun,  thud,  thug,  tug,  up.

are made longer with suffixes like  –ed,  -er,  –ing   or  –y, their last consonant gets doubled

to show that their vowel is short rather than long:  

        batted,  batting,  bitty   –  bated,  bating, biting.

At least 503  root words of more than one syllable (listed at the end of this section) also have doubled consonants (or  ck, dg)  to show that their main vowel is short rather than long:

        e.g.  fatten,  teddy,   dinner,  popper,  supper,   pocket,  fridge  –

            cf. fatal,    tedious,  diner,     pope,      super,      poker,  oblige.

But in the 7,000 most used English words which I examined

              575 words are without doubling (habit, study – c.f. rabbit, muddy) and

              219  wordshave needlessly doubled consonants (e.g. arrive – cf. arise).

This makes English consonant doubling almost completely unsystematic

Of the 575 words of more than one syllable which do not indicate their short, stressed vowels:

            328 have no other irregularities apart from their undoubled consonants

                     (e.g. body, copy, study –  cf. shoddy, poppy, muddy),

              73 do not use ckdgss and zz

                     (e.g.  placard,  agile,  acid,  scissors  –  c.f.   packet,  badger, massive, blizzard)                       and  174  words have assorted other irregularities as well

                     (e.g. women,   foreign  –  cf. swimmer;   sorry, flatten).

328 words which merely lack consonant doubling:

ability,  abolish,  abominable,  academic,  academy,  agony,  aluminium,  America,  animal, apologise,  aquatic,  Arab,  arable,  arid,  asparagus,  astonish,  astrology,  astronomy,  athletic,  atom,  atomic,   authority,  avenue,  average,    banish, banister,  barometer,  baton,  benefit,  bilious,  body,  botany,  brigand,   British,     cabin,  cabinet,  calamity,  camera,  canopy,  capita,  capital,  caramel,  caravan,  carol,  catapult,  category,  cavalry,  cavern,  cavity,  chariot,  charity,  cherish,  clarity,  clever,  clinical,  colony,  comedy,  comet,  comic,  comparison,  conifer,  conspiracy,  continue,  copy,  coral,  credit,  criminal,  critic,  critical,    damage,  deciduous,  dedicate,  delicacy,  deliver,  deluge,  democrat,   demolish,  deputy,  derelict,  develop,   devil,  dilapidated,  diplomatic,  distribute,  dominate,  domino,   dragon,  drivel,  driven,     economic,  economy,  edit,  educate,   electronic,  element,  eleven,  eligible,   eliminate,  emerald,  emigrate,   empirical,  enamel,  enemy,   energy,  epic,  epidemic,  episode,  equivalent,  ever,  evidence,   experiment,     fabulous,  facilities,  family,  famished,  federal,  felon,  finish,  flagon,  florist,  forest,    galaxy,  garage(UK),  given,  glamour,  granary,  gratitude,  gravity,     habit,  havoc,  hazard,  helicopter,  herald,  heritage,  heroin,  heron,  hexagonal,  hideous,  historic,  holiday,  horoscope,  hovel,  hover,     idiot,  image,  inhabit,  inherent,  inherited,  italic,     jaguar,  January,  javelin,  lateral,  latitude,  lavender,  lemon, leper,  liberal,  liberty,  lily,  limit,  linear,  literal,  literary,  lizard,  lozenge,     madam,  magnetic,  magnificent,  majority,  manage,  manual, manuscript, mathematics,  medal,  medical,  melody,  melon,  memorise,  memory,  menu,  merit,  metal,  metropolitan,  military,  mineral,  minimal,  minimum,  minister,  minority,  miracle,  modern,  modest,  monitor,  monotonous,  monument,   moral,  morality,     navigate,  nebula,  never,  numerical,  obliterate,  opera, operate,  opinion,   orange,  organic,  origin,     Pacific,  palace,  panic,  parasol,  parish,  pathetic,  pelican,  penalty,  penetrate,  peril,  periscope,  perish,  petal,  pity,  planet,  platinum,   poetic,  policy,  polish,   political, politics,   popular,  popularity,  poverty,  preliminary,  premier,  primarily,   priority,  privilege,  probability,   probable,  product,  profit,   prohibit,  prominent,  proper,  property,  prosecute,  proverb,  providence,  punish,     quiver, radical,  radish,  rapid,  ravenous,   reality,  reference,  refuge,  relic,   remedy,  reverend,  ridicule,  river,   rivet,  robin,      salad,  salary,  salon,  satin,  saturate,  Saturn,  savage,  scavenge,  semi,  seven,  shiver,  shrivel,  significant,   sincerity,  sinister,  skeleton,  snivel,  solid,  solitary,  spaniel,  specific,   spinach,  spirit,  static,  sterilise,   strategy,  strenuous,  study,   supersonic,      talent,  talon,  tapestry,  telescope,  television,  tepid,  tetanus,  theology,  therapist,  thermometer,  timid,  tolerate,  tonic,  topic,  transparent,  tribute,  tropics,     valentine,  valid,  value,  vanish,   ventriloquist,  very,  video,  vigorous,   vinegar,  vitality,  volume,  voluntary,   vomit,     wagon,  wizard,  wizened,  yeti.  abillity,  abollish,  abomminable,  academmic,  acaddemy,  aggony,  aluminnium,  Amerrica,  annimal,   apollogise,  aquattic,  Arrab,  arrable,  arrid,  asparragus,  astonnish,  astrollogy,   astronnomy,  athlettic,  attom,  atommic,  authorrity,  avvenue,  avverage,  bannish, bannister,  barommeter,  batton,  bennefit,  billious,  boddy,  bottany,  briggand,   Brittish,       cabbin,  cabbinet,  calammity,  cammera,  cannopy,  cappita,  cappital, carramel,  carravan,  carrol,  cattapult,  cattegory,  cavvalry,  cavvern,  cavvity,  charriot,  charrity,  cherrish,  clarrity,  clevver,  clinnical,  collony,  commedy,  commet,  commic,  comparrison,  connifer,  conspirracy,  continnue,  coppy,  corral,  creddit,  crimminal,  crittic, crittical,      dammage,  decidduous,  deddicate,  dellicacy,  delivver,  delluge,  demmocrat,   demollish,  depputy,  derrelict,  devellop,   devvil, dilappidated,  diplomattic,   distribbute,  domminate, dommino,  draggon,  drivvel,  drivven,      econommic,  econnomy,  eddit,  edducate,   electronnic,  ellement,  elevven,  elligible,   elimminate,  emmerald,  emmigrate,  empirrical,  enammel,  ennemy,   ennergy,  eppic,  epidemmic,  eppisode,   equivvalent,   evver,  evvidence,   experriment,      fabbulous,  facillities,  fammily,  fammished,  fedderal,  fellon,  finnish,  flaggon,  florrist,  forrest,     gallaxy,  garrage(UK),  givven,  glammour,  grannary,  grattitude,  gravvity,     habbit,  havvoc,  hazzard,  hellicopter,  herrald,  herritage,  herroin,  herron,  hexaggonal,  hiddeous,  historric,  holliday,  horroscope, hovvel,  hovver,    iddiot,  immage, inhabbit,  inherrent, inherrited,  itallic,     jagguar,  Jannuary,  javvelin,  latteral,  lattitude,  lavvender,  lemmon, lepper,  libberal,  libberty,  lilly,  limmit,  linnear,  litteral,  litterary,  lizzard,   lozzenge,     maddam,  magnettic,  magnifficent,  majorrity,  mannage,  mannual,  mannuscript,  mathemattics,  meddal,  meddical,  mellody,  mellon,  memmorise,  memmory,  mennu,  merrit,  mettal,  metropollitan,  millitary,  minneral,  minnimal,  minnimum,  minnister,  minorrity,  mirracle,  moddern,  moddest,  monnitor,  monottonous,  monnument,   morral, morallity,     navvigate,  nebbula,  nevver,  numerrical,   oblitterate,  oppera,  opperate,  opinnion,   orrange,  organnic,  orrigin,     Paciffic,  pallace,  pannic,  parrasol,  parrish,  pathettic,  pellican,  pennalty, pennetrate,  perril,  perriscope,  perrish, pettal,  pitty,  plannet,  plattinum,   poettic,  pollicy,  pollish,   polittical,  pollitics,   poppular,  popularrity,  povverty,  prelimminary,  premmier,  primarrily,   priorrity,  privvilege,  probabillity,   probbable,  prodduct,  proffit,   prohibbit,  promminent,  propper,  propperty,  prossecute,  provverb,  provvidence,  punnish,     quivver,     raddical,  raddish,  rappid,  ravvenous,   reallity,  refference,  reffuge,  rellic,   remmedy,  revverend,  riddicule,  rivver,   rivvet,  robbin,      sallad,  sallary,  sallon,  sattin,  satturate,  Satturn,  savvage,  scavvenge,  semmi,   sevven,  shivver,  shrivvel,  signifficant,   incerrity,  sinnister,  skelleton,  snivvel,  sollid,  sollitary,  spanniel,  speciffic,   spinnach,  spirrit,  stattic,  sterrilise,   strattegy,  strennuous,  studdy,   supersonnic,      tallent,  tallon,  tappestry,  tellescope,  tellevision,  teppid,  tettanus,  theollogy,  therrapist,  thermommeter,  timmid,  tollerate,  tonnic,  toppic,  transparrent,  tribbute,  troppics,     vallentine,   vallid,  vallue,  vannish,   ventrilloquist,  verry,  viddeo,  viggorous,   vinnegar,  vitallity,  vollume,  volluntary, vommit,     waggon,  wizzard,  wizzened,  yetti.

73 words do not use ck, dg, ss or zz after their short stressed vowel

           –  unlike  ‘beckon, badger, passive, buzzard’.

crocodile,  decade,  decorate,  document,  executive, faculty, placard,  recognise, recordx2,  ridiculous, secondx2, secondary,  secular,  vacuum,    broccoli,  hiccup,  occupy, piccolo,  succulent,  tobacco,    echo, mechanism,     chequered,  lacquer, liquor,  liquorice,            agile,  digit,  exaggerate, frigid, legend, legislate, logic,  magic,   original,  refrigerate,   regiment,  register,  rigid, tragic,   vegetable,     acid,  anticipate,  capacity,  decimal,  electricity,  explicit,  glacier(UK), municipal,   pacifist,  participate, precipice,  publicity,  simplicity, specimen,  velocity,     adolescent, convalescent, crescent,  fascinate,   closet,  deposit,  desert,  hesitate,   miserable,  positive,  presence,   present,  president,  prison,   resident,  risen,  visit.crockodile,   deckade,  deckorate,  dockument,  execkutive, fackulty, plackard,  reckognise,   reckord(n), record(v),  ridickulous, seckond(n),second(v),  seckondary,  seckular,  vackuum,    brockoly,  hickup,  ockupye,  pickolo,  suckulent,  tobacko,     ecko,  meckanism,  checkered,  lacker,  lickor,  lickorish,           adgile,  didgit,  exadgerate, fridgid,   ledgend, ledgislate, lodgic,  madgic,  oridginal,  refridgerate, redgiment,   redgister, ridgid,  tradgic,    vedgetable,     assid,  antissipate,  capassity, dessimal,    electrissity,  explissit,  glassier(UK),  munissipal,    passifist,  partissipate,   pressipice, publissity,  simplissity,      spessimen,   velossity,     adolessent,  convalessent,  cressent,  fassinate,   clozzet,  depozzit,  dezzert,  hezzitate,   mizzerable,  pozzitive, prezzence,   prezzent,  prezzident,  prizzon,   rezzident,  rizzen,  vizzit.     

55  words are without doubled consonants after irregularly spelt short vowels

heaven,  heavy,  jealous,  meadow,   ready, (already),  steady,   threaten,  weapon,   zealous,  peasant,  pheasant,  pleasant,         jeopardy,  leopard,  any,  many,  berry/bury,  burial,  heifer,  colour(UK)/color(US),  courage,  cousin,  covenant,  cover,  covet,  dozen,  flourish, govern,  honey,  money,  monetary,  nourish,  onion,  oven,  shovel,  slovenly,  stomach,  somersault,  thorough,  chrysalis,  cylinder,  cynical,  synagogue,  synonym,  syrup,  lyric,  tyranny,  typical,  physics,  physical,   busy,  women,  laurel, sausage  hevven,  hevvy,   jellous,  meddow,   reddy (alreddy),  steddy,   thretten,  weppon,   zellous,  pezzent,  fezzent,  plezzent,  jeppardy,  leppard,  enny,  menny,  berry,  berrial,  heffer,  culler,  currage,  cuzzen,  cuvvenant,  cuvver,  cuvvet,  duzzen,  flurrish, guvvern,  hunny,  munny,  munnetary,  nurrish,  unnion,  uvven,   shuvvle,  sluvvenly,  stummac,   summersault,  thurru, chrissalis,  cillinder,  cinnical,  sinnagog,  sinnonim,  sirrup,  lirric,  tirrany,  tippical,  fizzics,  fizzical,   bizzy,  wimmen,  lorrel, sossage

34 words do not have  doubling in endings, as in ‘apple, little, etc.’

couple, double,  trouble,  apostle,  bristle,  bustle,  camel,  chapel,  chisel,  drivel,  enamel,  gravel,  gristle,  grovel,  hovel,  hustle,  jostle,  level,  model,  muscle/mussel,  novel,  panel,  rustle,  shrivel,  snivel,  subtle,  swivel,  thistle,  travel,  treble,  trestle,  triple,  whistle,  wrestlecupple, dubble,  trubble,  apossle,  brissle,  bussle,  cammle,  chapple,  chizzle,  drivvle,  enammle,  gravvle,  grissle,  grovvle,  hovvle,  hussle,  jossle,  levvle,  moddle,  mussle,  novvle,  pannle,  russle,  shrivvle,  snivvle,  suttle,  swivvle,  thissle,  travvle,  trebble,  tressle,  tripple,  wissle,  ressle

85 words have assorted additional irregularities: 

adequate,  comparative,  feminine, frigate,  heroine,  minute(x2),  negative,  olive,  palate/palette/pallet,  primitive,  relative,  senate,  amateur,  camouflage,  catalogue,  cemetery,  column,  foreign,  honest,   honour,  monarch,  monastery,  shadow,  sheriff,   scissors,  solemn,  widow, premise,   promise,  menace,  novice,     analysis,  anonymous,  anorak,  beret,  cabaret,  café,  chalet,  calendar,  caterpillar, chemical,  chemistry, civil,dynamic,  elephant,  endeavour, laminate(x2),  lieutenant,  moderate(x2),  pacify, platypus,  plumber,  polythene,  qualify,  quality, quarantine,  rebel(x2),  refuse(x2),  regular,  salmon,  Saturday,  separate(x2),  similar,  simile,  sugar,  tenor/tenner,  valiant, venison, verify, camel,  chapel,  model,  panel,   subtle, gravel,  grovel,  level,  novel,  swivel,  travel,  detachaddequat,  comparrativ,  femminin,  friggat, herroin,  minnit(n,v),  minute(adj) neggativ,  olliv,  pallet,  primmitiv,  rellativ,  sennat,  ammatur,  cammuflage,  cattalog,  semmetry,  collum,  forren,  onnest,  onner,  monnark,  monnastry,  shaddo, sherrif,   sizzers,  sollem,  widdo, premmis,   prommis,   mennis,   novvis, anallisis,  anonnimous,  annorac,  berray,  cabbaray,  caffay,  challay,  callender,  catterpiler,   kemmical,  kemmistry, sivvil,dinammic, ellefent,  endevver, lamminate(v), lamminat(adj),  leftennent(UK),  lutennent(US), modderate(vb),  modderat(adj) passifye, plattipus,  plummer,  pollytheen,  quollifye,  quollity, quarranteen,  rebble(n), rebel(vb),    reffuse (n), refuse(vb),  regguler,  sammon,  Satterday,  sepparate(vb), sepparat(adj),  simmiler,  simmily,  shugger,  tenner,  vallient, vennisen, verrifye, cammle,  chapple,  moddle,  pannle,   suttle,  gravvle,  grovvle,  levvle,  novvle,  swivvle,   travvle,  detatch (cf dispatch)   

219 words have surplus consonant doubling – not after a short, stressed vowel.

         Some of them have other irregularities as well (affectionate, excellent), including missing doubling (satellite).

abbreviate, accompany, accomplish, accord, accordance, accordion, account, accrue, accumulate, accuse, accustom, occur,  occurrence, cockerel, cocktail, mackerel, add/ad, odd, address(uk), affair, affect, affection, affectionate,  affluent, afford, chauffeur, differential, diffusion, effect, efficient, effluent, effusivegiraffe, graffiti, offence, offend, offensive, official, officious, paraffin, sheriff,  sufficient, aggravate, aggressive, egg, alliance, allotment, allow, allowance, allowed/aloud, ballistic, balloon,  bull, bulldoze, cell/sellcollage, collapse,  collect, collection, collide, constellation,  controlled, excellent, hello, illegal, illegible, illiterate, illuminate,  illusion, illustration, installation,  intellectual, jewellery,  llama, marvellous,  parallel, pastille, roller, satellite, swollen, tonsillitis, traveller(UK), wholly, accommodation, ammunition, command, commemorate, commence, commission,  commit, commodities, commotion, communication, communion, community,  commuter, immaculate, immediate,  immense, immersion, immortal, immune, programme, programmer, recommend, anniversary, announce, annoy, annul,  connect, Finn/fin, inn, mayonnaise,  personnel, questionnaire, savannah,  tyranny, appal, apparatus, apparent, appendix, applaud, applause, appliance, apply,  appoint, appreciate, apprehensive,  apprentice, approach, appropriate(adj), appropriate(vb), approve, approximate(adj), approximate(vb),  hippopotamus, opportunity, oppose,  sapphire, supply, support, suppose, arrange, array, arrest, arrive, barricade,  correct, correlation, correspond,  curriculum, errerratic, hurrah, interrupt,  irregular, irrigation, purr, serrated, surrender, surreptitious, surround, terrific, torrential, verruca, abscess, assail, assassin, assassinate,  assault, assemble, assert, assessment,  assessor, assign, assist, assistant, associate(n), associate(vb), assort,  assume, cassette, compass, congress, cypress, dessert, embassy, essential,  fission, fortress, gross, guess, harness, lasso, mattress, moose/mousse,  necessarily, necessary,  possess, possessive, possibility,  recess, witness, attach, attack, attain, attempt, attend,  attention, attorney, attract, attribute, battalion, butt/but,  cigaretteomelette, palette, silhouette,  pizzaabreeviate, acumpany, acumplish, acord, acordence, acordion, acount, acrue, acumulate, acuse, acustom, ocurr, ocurrence,  cocrel, coctail, macrle, ad, od, adress(uk), afair, afect, afection, afectionat,  afluent, aford, shofer, diferential,  difusion, efect, eficient, efluent, efusiv, giraf, grafeety, ofence, ofend, ofensiv, oficial, oficious, parrafin, sherrif, suficient, agravate, agressiv, eg, aliance, alotment, alow, alowence,  aloud, balistic, baloon,  bul, buldoze, sel, colage, colapse,  colect, colection, colide, constelation, controled, exelent, helo, ileegal, iledgible, ilitterat, iluminate, ilusion, ilustration, instalation,  intelectual, jewelry, lama, marvelous, parralel, pastil, roler, sattelite, swolen, toncilitis, travvler(UK), holy, acomodation, amunition, comand,  comemmorate, comence, comission, comit, comoddities, comotion, comunication, comunion, comunity,  comuter, imackulat, imeediat,  imence, imersion, imortal, imune, program, programer, recomend, aniversary, anounce, anoy, anull,  conect, Fin/fin, in, mayonaise,  personell, questionair, savanna,  tirrany, apaul, aparatus, aparrent, apendix, aplaud, aplause, aplience, aplye,  apoint, apreeciate, aprehensiv,  aprentice, aproach, apropriat(adj), apropriate(vb), aproove,  aproximat(adj), aproximate(vb),  hipopottamus, oportunity, opose,  saffire, suplye, suport, supose, arainge, aray, arest, arive, baricade,  corect, corelation, corespond,  curickulum, er,erattic, hurah, interupt,  iregguler, irigation, pur,  serated, surender, sureptitious, suround,  teriffic, torential, verooca, abces, asail, asassin, asassinate,  asault, asemble, asert, asesment,  asessor, asine, asist, asistent,  asociat(n), asociate(vb), asort,  asume, caset, cumpas, congres,  siperes, desert, embacy, esential,  fision, fortres, groce, ges, harnes,  lasoo, matres, mooce,  necesarrily, nessesary,  posess, posessiv, posibillity,  reeces, witnes, atatch, atack, atain, atempt, atend, atention, atorny, atract, atribute,batallion, but, sigaretomlet, palet, silooet,  peetsa

       In addition to the above, several dozen words have needlessly doubled  -ff, -ll, -ss  (puff, well, fuss 

 at the end of short words. They have many exceptions (if, us, rough, yes) and can also be confusing 

                        (doll – roll – stole,   shall – call – crawl).

503 words have systematic consonant doubling, or –ck and –dg,  

                                  after their short, stressed vowels:

Adder,  admission,  allergy,  alley,  alligator,  allocate,  ally,  ambassador,  ammonite,  annual,  antenna,  appetite,  armadillo,  arrow,  artillery,  asset,  assurance,  assure,  attic,  attitude,  badger,  baggage,  ballast,  ballet,  ballot,  banner,  barren,  barrier,  barrister,  barrow,  batter,  battery,  beckon,  beggar,  bellow,  belly,  berry/bury,  better,  bicker,  billiard,  billion,  billow,  billy,  bitten,  bitter,  bivvy,  blizzard,  blossom,  bonnet,  borrow,  bottom,  bracken,  bracket,  brilliant,  bucket,  budget,  buffalo,  buffer,  buffet,  bullet,  bulletin,  bullion,  bully,  bunny,  burrow,  butter,  button,  buzzard,  cabbage,  caddy,  cannot,  carrot,  carry,  casserole,  cellar/seller,  cello,  cellophane,  challenge,  chatter,  chicken,  chivvy,  chubby,  chuffed,  civvy,  clammy,  classic,  clatter,  clutter,  cockroach,  coffin,  collar,  college,  colliery,  colossal,  comment,  commentary,  commerce,  common,  communism,  communist,  confetti,  copper,  coppice,  corridor,  cottage,  cotton,  cricket,  crockery,  cuckoo,  current,  daddy,  daffodil,  delicatessen,  different,  difficult,  diffident,  dilemma,  dinner,  divvy,  dizzy,  dodgems,  dodgy,  dollar,  drudgery,  dummy,  eddy,  effigy,  effort,  emission,  error,  essay,  essence,  fatty,  fatty,  fellow,  finish/Finnish,  fledgling,  flicker,  flipper,  follow,  forgotten,  fossil,  frilly,  furrowed,  furry,  gallant,  gallery,  gallon,  gallop,  gallows,  garret,  giddy,  glimmer,  glitter,  gorilla,  gossip,  grammar,  granny,  gutter,  halfpenny,  hammer,  happen,  happy,  herring,  hidden,  hobby,  hollow,  holly,  horrible,  horror,  hullabaloo,  hurricane,  hurry,  illustrate,  inflammable,  inner,  innocence,  innocent,  intelligent,  irritable,  issue,  jabber,  jacket,  jagged,  jelly,  jettison,  jetty,  jiffy,  jockey,  jolly,  kipper,  kitten,  ladder,  latter,  lesson/lessen,  letter,  lettuce,  litter,  Lizzy,  lobby,  locket,  lollipop,  lolly,  lorry,  lottery,  luggage,  lullaby,  maggot,  mallet,  mammal,  mammoth,  manner/manor,  marrow,  marry,  massacre,  matter,  merry,  message,  midget,  milligrams,  million,  millipede,  mirror,  missile,  mission,  mitten,  mollusc,  motto,  mummy,  mutter,  mutton,  nanny,  nappy,  narcissus,  narrow,  navvy,  necessity,  necklace,  nugget,  offer,  office,  omission,  otter,  package,  packet,  pannier,  parrot,  passage,  passenger,  patter,  pattern,  pellet,  pennant,  penny,  pepper,  permissible,  permission,  pillar,  pillow,  pinnacle,  pocket,  podgy,  pollen,  pollinate,  poppy,  possible,  potter,  pottery,  pretty,  professor,  pudding,  pullover,  punnet,  puppet,  puppy,  pussyx2,  putty,  quarry,  rabbit,  racket,  rally,  rebellion,  reckon,  regatta,  ribbon,  rickety,  ridden,  rissole,  robbery,  rocket,  rocky,  rubber,  rubbish,  rudder,  ruffian,  rugged,  rummage,  Sabbath,  savvy,  scaffold,  scatter,  scraggy,  scurry,  sellotape,  shabby,  shallow,  shatter,  sherry,  shoddy,  shudder,  shutter,  silly,  simmer,  sitter,  skipper,  skivvy,  slipper,  sloppy,  snigger,  socket,  sodden,  soggy,  sonnet,  sorrow,  sorry,  spaghetti,  spanner,  sparrow,  spinnaker,  splutter,  stagger,  stallion,  stammer,  sticky,  stirrup,  stocking,  stubborn,  stubby,  stutter,  sucker,  sudden,  suffer,  suffocate,  suggest,  sullen,  summary/summery,  summer,  summit,  summon,  supper,  swagger,  swallow,  syllable,  symmetry,  tatter,  teddy,  tennis,  terrace,  terrible,  territory,  terror,  ticket,  tissue,  titter,  tomorrow,  torrent,  traffic,  transmission,  trellis,  trigger,  tummy,  turret,  twitter,  umbrella,  uncanny,  upper,  utter,  vanilla,  villa,  village,  villain,  wallaby,  wallet,  wallop,  wallow,  warrant,  warren,  warrior,  watt,  wedding,  whirring,  wicked,  wicker,  wicket,  willow,  worry,  yellow. Abbey,  barrack,  bullock,  embarrass,  excessive,  fissure,  guerrilla,  guillotine,  hockey,  massive,  narrative,  opposite, porridge,   pressure,  progressive,  pulley,  savannah,  trolley,  valley,  volley,  written.

86 words with –ccle endings (a short vowel followed by doubled consonants and –le).

Apple,  babble,  baffle,  battle,  bottle,  bubble,  buckle,  cackle,  cattle,  chuckle,  cobble,  crackle,  cripple,  cuddle,  dabble,  dappled,  dazzle,  dribble,  drizzle,  fickle,  fiddle,  gabble,  giggle,  gobble,  goggle,  grapple,  grizzle,  guzzle,  hassle,  hobble,  huddle,  juggle,  kettle,  little,  meddle,  middle,  muddle,  muffle,  muzzle,  nettle,  nibble,  nozzle,  nuzzle,  paddle,  pebble,  peddle,  pickle,  pineapple,  prickle,  puddle,  puzzle,  quibble,  raffle,  rattle,  riddle,  ripple,  rubble,  ruffle,  saddle,  scribble,  scuttle,  settle,  shuffle,  sizzle,  skittle,  smuggle,  sniffle,  snuffle,  snuggle,  speckle,  straggle,  struggle,  suckle,  supple,  tackle,  throttle,  tickle,  tipple,  toddle,  topple,  trickle,  tussle,  twiddle,  wiggle,  wobble.

Why many adults are illiterate

One in six speakers of English cannot read or write well enough for life or work after 10 years in education, because English has too many words with irregular spellings which make it too difficult for them.
       * They struggle with reading, because 69 spellings don’t spell just one sound, like [ee] in ‘deep sleep’, but several, like o in ‘only, one, other‘ and ea in ‘ear, heard, bear, heart, break‘.
       * Writing defeats even more, because over 4,000 common words have irregular spellings, like
          ‘blue, shoe, flew, through, too‘, which have to be learned word by word.
This has been confirmed by several studies. But even just taking a close look at the words that young children misread, or the words that all students repeatedly misspell, makes it clear that nearly all their reading and writing difficulties are caused by irregular spellings.
      They all impede learning to read and write to some extent, but the worst learning difficulties are caused by five groups of irregularities which stem from deliberate changes to the original English writing system.

 Irregular spellings for
  /u/  (son, some, trouble),
  /e/  (head, said, friend, any)  and    
/ee/   (speak, speech, even, believe, weird, marine, people),    
 surplus –e  endings (engine – define, margin) and     
inconsistent consonant doubling (carrot – carol;  arise – arrive).

The different spellings for 335 homophones like ‘hear/here‘ which Johnson introduced in 1755 made them even worse.
     Learning to read and write English could be made much easier by merely bringing some of the changed spellings back into line with the main English spelling patterns.


The u spelling was the first to be made irregular, by substituting o for u next to m, n, v, and w (month, oven, wonder), often with a surplus -e as well (love, some, money). A few more were added later (young, blood).   * Some are also without doubled consonants after their short vowels, e.g.  funny money.

Among, front,  Monday,    monger,  mongrel,  monk,  monkey,  month,   mother,   smotherComfort,  company,  compass, nothing,  pommel/pummel.     Sun/son,  ton/tonne,  tongue, sponge.       Come,  some/sum,   Done,  none/nun.   Won/ one.   Once.    Wonder,  worry.                        Above, dove, glove, love,  shove.         Country,  young.   Enough
*  Cover, covet, covey, covenant,  govern, honey, money, nourish, onion. 
     oven, shovel,  slov
enly. stomach. 
      Not next to  m,  nv or w: 
      Rough,  tough, slough[slou/sluf].   Brother, does,  hiccough/hiccup,  other.
       Southern,    touch.    Blood,  flood. 
*  Colour,   courage,  cousin,  dozen, double,  couple, thorough,  trouble.  

The spellings  oo-e and ou, which spell the /u/ sound in the 68 words above, are pronounced mainly as in on  home  ground’.   In addition to their use for /u/, they have several other pronunciations in 76 more words, like, ‘do, four, groups‘, which undermine their regular usage too.
    The 29 a spellings for /o/ after w and qu ( was, whatsquash) also diluted the use of the letter o.  
The irregular sounds of ‘ow‘ (how slow) and ‘oo‘ ( good, food, flood) are also confusing.
     Amending at least the 68 irregular spellings for /u/ (e.g. front → frunt), would bring a significant reduction of words which are made difficult to read by the irregular uses of o, o-e and ou, and help to make both learning to read and write quite a bit easier.   Adopting regular spellings for the /o/ sound after w and qu would help too.

The irregular spellings of short /e/ /i/ /o/ and /u/, which occur in 229 much used words, hinder the literacy progress of young children most, because they are generally first taught to read those letters in regularly spelt words,  like 
      ‘get the set’,  ‘sit in it’,  ‘hop on top’,  ‘mum must rush’.
With such words, nearly all children learn easily. But the progress of many becomes markedly slower when they begin to be taught different pronunciations
     then – she,  in – kind,  on – other,  trust – truth    for the same spellings and also different spellings
     head, said;  women, busy;  want, squash;  younger, brother   for the same sounds.

/A/ (as in ‘a fat cat sat’) is irregular only in ‘plaid, plait‘ and ‘meringue‘. They hinder learning only minimally.
       /I/ has 45 exceptions: with y (crypt, crystal… gym, hymn… symbol, system) in 37 words and 8 others ‘busy, build, built,  English, pretty,  women,  sieve,  vineyard‘.   Regular spellings for them would also make learning to read and write easier. But at least y has only two pronunciations (typical type), and mostly in words that are not very common. Their impact on learning to read is relatively small too.
       The irregular spellings of e, o and u affect more words and more often used ones.  They also have more than one irregular pronunciation (end – English, he; month – most, women; bread – great, treat).
They hinder learning much more. Making them more regular would make a big difference to learners, especially in the early stages of learning to read.   Amending just some of them would help.  Dropping the clearly surplus a from the 65 ea spellings for /e/ would already make a big difference.

Ea is used in 245 words: 152 for /ee/, 65 /e/,  28 with other sounds (break, react, wear…) and   3 pairs of different words which share one spelling (lead, read, tear).
If the 65 ea for /e/ had their surplus a cut, then ea would be left spelling mainly just the /ee/ sound, with different pronunciations in just 28 words out of 180. This simple, minor tidying up of English spelling would very clearly make both learning to read and to write very much easier for young children.
      Amending the other 13 irregular spellings for /e/ (friend, said, any) would help even more. But just making the pronunciation of ea more predictable would already help greatly.

Bread/bred,    read [red/reed],   lead [led/leed],
 bre
adth,  breast,  breath,  dead,  deaf,  dealt,  death, dread,  dreamt, head, health, 
  leant, leapt, meant,  realm,  spread,  sweat, thread,  threat,  wealth.   

Breakfast, cleanliness, cleanse, endeavour, feather, heather, heaven, heavy, instead,  leather,
measure, pleasure, stealthy, threaten, treacherous, treadmill, treasure, weather, breathylise.
      Earl, early, earn, earnest, earth, heard, learn, pearl, rehearse, search, yearn,
ocean, pageant, sergeant, vengeance.
  
    Some are also without doubled consonants  (unlike ‘jelly, teddy, penny, pepper’):
Jealous, meadow, peasant, pheasant, pleasant, ready, (already), steady, weapon, zealous
Not with ea for /e/: Berry/bury.    Any, many.     Jeopardy, leopard.   Heifer.     
          Friend, every,  said,  says,  Wednesday.
With different pronunciations in US and UK:
   Leisure, lieutenant    [leesure/lesure,  lutennant/leftennant].   

The /ee/ sound was at first spelt mainly e-e, as it still is in 86 words (e.g. even, these), but much more so in the 14th century poems of Geoffrey Chaucer (sene, seson, reson, beleve, preste, techer). They were made irregular in the 15th century, when court scribes were ordered to switch from French to English after 1430, at the end of the 100 years war between England and France.
     The spellings for /ee/ now pose one of the biggest English writing difficulties, with 12 different spellings in 459 words:  6 main ones (eat,  eel, even, police, chiefs,  seize) and another 6 rarer ones (key, me, people, ski, quay, debris).
Most cause reading difficulties too: to read – have read;  field – friend;   fever – never;   codeine – vein; marine – engine;  people – leopard;  key – they;  ski – hi; debris – tennis.  
They absorb a great deal of teaching and learning time at all educational levels. Even making just them more regular would clearly make both learning to read and write much easier, free up time for other learning and help to raise overall educational attainment.

48 words with an /ee/ sound acquired different spellings for different meanings
       with the publication Samuel Johnson’s dictionary in 1755.
       Reed/read , but read = [reed] and [red], 
bee/be,  beech/beach,  been/bean,  beet/beat,  breech/breach, cheep/cheap,  creek/creak,   deer/dear, discreet/discrete,  eerie/eyrie,  eve/eaves,  feet/feat,  flee/flea,  freeze/frieze,    jeans/genes,  Greece/grease,  heel/heal,  hear/here,  key/quay,  leech/leach,  leek/leak,   meet/meat,  need/knead, pee/pea,  peace/piece, peek/peak,  peel/peal,  peer/pier,    reek/wreak,  reel/real,  sealing/ceiling,  seamen/semen,  see/sea,   seem/seam,   seen/sceneserial/cereal,  sheer/shear, sheikh/chic,   steel/steal,  sweet/suite,   tee/tea,  teem/team,  wee/we,  week/weak,  wheel/weal.
           In the UK also:   geezer/geyser,   leaver/lever.

 In the other 363 common words the stressed, clear /ee/ sound is spelt as follows:

95 ee:    Beef, beer, beetle, between… weed, weep, wheedle, wheeze, wildebeest.
115 ea:  … bead, beak, beam… seal, season… weary, weasel… year, yeast, zeal.
 
  76 open e :  Chinese, comedian,… these, trapeze, vehicle, Venus, zero.    He, me, she.
   26 open i:  Albino… machine, magazine… police… routine, sardine… trampoline…
26 ie: Achieve, belief… field, fiend, fierce… relief, … thief, thieve, tier, wield, yield.  
11 ei: Caffeine, codeine, protein, seize, weir, weird… deceive/deceit, receive/receipt.          
8 assorted oddities: People; cathedral, secret;   pizza, ski;  souvenir; debris, quay.

             (The listing of all irregularly spelt words gives all 459 with an /ee/ sound.)                                                                  


SURPLUS LETTERS serve no useful purpose. They just make learning to read and write harder.
           Most were added in the 16th century, when printers used to be paid by the line. They inserted them mainly to fill more space and earn more money, and sometimes to make text edges neater.  Most of them were dropped again later. But many have survived. The a in ea for /e/ (bread) has already been mentioned. The other main surplus letter is -e, mostly after n, t and v (imagine, delicate, native).

Surplus -e endings do their greatest harm in learning to read, because they undermine the original English system of differentiating between ‘short and long‘ or ‘closed and open‘ vowels, as still used in hundreds of words like ‘mat – mate – matter; pin – pine – pinny’.
     The surplus –e after –in in 16 words
     undermines its regular use in the 24 words like
    combine, decline, define, divine …fine wine.

destine, determine, discipline, doctrine, examine, engine, famine, feminine, genuine, heroine, imagine, intestine, jasmine, masculine, medicine, urine

    and the regularly spelt –in endings of ‘aspirin, basin, boffin, cabin, catkin, coffin, dolphin, goblin, mandarin,  margin …  violin’.

    They are further undermined by 16 words in which -ine spells /-een/, rhyming with ‘canteen’:

chlorine, clementine, gasoline, guillotine, machine, magazine, margarine, marine, plasticine, ravine, routine, sardine, tambourine, tangerine, trampoline, vaseline .

The redundant  –e   in the  -ate   endings of 57 words also seriously handicaps learning to read.

     In 30 words the  -e is just decorative.
They rhyme with ‘acrobat‘ and ‘democrat‘ and  undermine the regularly used –ate in 68 words like
    ‘create, cremate, debate… infuriate‘:
Accurate, adequate, affectionate, candidate, chocolate, climate, considerate, corporate, delicate, desperate, extortionate, fortunate, frigate, illiterate, immaculate, immediate, intermediate, intricate, laureate, legitimate, obstinate, palate, passionate, pirate, private, proportionate, senate, temperate, ultimate, vertebrate.  

      Even trickier are the 27 -ate endings with  variable pronunciations   which   depend on context   (e.g.  advocate:  an advocat / to advocait):

Advocate, alternate, animate, appropriate, approximate, articulate, associate, certificate, co-ordinate, degenerate, delegate, deliberate, designate, desolate, dictate, duplicate, elaborate, estimate, graduate, intimate, laminate, moderate, primate, separate, subordinate, syndicate, triplicate.

      The surplus -e of  ‘definite, exquisite, granite, infinite, opposite’
hinders learning too, by undermining the regular spellings of
      ‘admit, bandit, culprit …  and   ammonite, appetite, invite …, termite, unite. 

The -ive ending has few exceptions in spelling, like ‘spiv‘, ‘improv’ and ‘satnav’.   Children can also learn for reading that
       in longer words the –e  of –ive does not show that the vowel before v is long, as in ‘five‘          (creative, decisive… massive, motive, narrative, native… sensitive, subjective), but occasionally it does:  alive, arrive, deprive, revive, survive.       

Every surplus -e after v undermines the ‘long – short’ vowel system which young children find hard enough to grasp, just like those after n and t.   The -e endings of the common words   ‘havegive, live’
clearly make it harder to learn to read  –  ‘gave, save, shave …dive, drive, jive, skive, strive, thrive…’.

CONSONANT DOUBLING  is the biggest English writing problem and causes considerable reading difficulties too.
      It was made irregular by Johnson’s dictionary of 1755.  For words of Latin origin, Johnson often chose to ignore the English system of distinguishing between long and short vowels, as in   ‘hide – hidden’ with hundreds of exceptions like  ‘hideous, video’. Students can no longer decide logically when to use doubled consonants. They must learn word by word which ones have them: rabbit – habit,  ballad – balance,  cellar – celery’.
      Omitted and surplus doubled consonants makes learning to read more difficult too. They make it less immediately obvious which vowels in longer words are stressed, which short and which long
         ‘arrow – arrive’; fabulous – fable; column – collapse’,
 which is much clearer with the systematic use of consonant doubling, as in ‘funny funeral’.
        Children’s ‘misspellings’, like ‘verry‘, ‘holliday‘, ‘fammily‘, show that the logic of doubled consonants after short, stressed vowels is easy to understand. They get flummoxed by the hundreds inconsistencies that Johnson created by undermining the ingenious and uniquely English way of showing vowel stress and length.  

          In root words of more than one syllable consonant doubling is now totally unpredictable.
567  are  without double consonants after their stressed, short vowels:
            radish, refuge,  lily, copy, study,      and undermine the logical doubling in hundreds of others, like
            madden, effort, silly, poppy, buddy.
217   have surplus doubling, (e.g. effect – cf. effort) – used for Latin grammatical reasons,
               not for keeping a short vowel short.   Only
503  root words have a systematically doubled consonant after a short, stressed vowel, like
            ladder, effort, silly, poppy, shudder.
Doubling is still used predictably (after a stressed, short vowel), only when 226 short, one-syllable words are made longer with suffixes like  -ed, -er, or –ing,   as in ‘grit – gritted, gritting, gritter’.
     (All words with omitted, surplus and systematically doubled consonants are shown in the blog which explains the whole English short and long vowel system, and exceptions to it.)

Ideally, the 44 English sounds would all have just one spelling. But even just reducing some of the worst problems explained in this blog would make learning to read and write very much easier.                                mashabell@aol.com

Best tweets @Mashabell

English spelling needs modernising because its irregularities make learning to read and write much too hard and slow for kids who don’t get much help with it from their parents during early childhood and first years at school – http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.co.uk  

Evidence from Finland, Korea and many more countries tells us very clearly that with modernised, simpler spelling systems children learn to read and write 10 x faster and with less failure than with the mind-boggling English system.

Do teachers care about getting kids educated? Or is teaching just a way of earning their living? They can surely see that spellings like ‘friend said Wednesday’ make learning to r + wr much harder than ‘frend sed Wensday’. So why are they not calling for change?

Being able to read is important. Right? – So why is English spelling still allowed to make it much harder than need be? Why are teachers not calling for reform? U don’t hav to be smart or gifted to read with spellings like ‘stop on hot spot’. U do with ‘only once other women won’.

The irregularities of English spelling are a very costly educational handicap. English-speaking countries could all become much better educated if English spelling was improved and learning to read and write was made easier and faster. 

The irregular English spellings are the reason why 1 in 6 speakers of English still can’t read properly when they leave school at 16. They also cause endless arguments about how best to teach reading and writing, e.g. https://theconversation.com/south-australias-trial-of-englands-year-one-phonics-check-shows-why-we-need-it-94411 … – Illogical nonsense is hard to teach.

Learning to Read and Write English is hard and takes very long because too many words have irregular spellings (e.g. said, head, other, trouble v bed, led; upper, rubble)  They make young children’s lives much harder than better systems. The worst should be modernised.

Inglish spelling wos made difficult by peepl hoo gave no thaut to how this afected lerning to reed and rite. By undooing sum of their worst changes litteracy lerning Inglish culd be made much eesier.

Anglophone countries will always have lots of kids failing to learn to read well, despite spending 10 years at school, for as long as there is no reduction in the 100s of irregular English spellings. U cant hav a disfunctional spelling sistem and expect all children to lern wel.

In lots of books, like this one, reading failure gets blamed on poor teaching. The real reasons for it  – the absurdities of English spelling – get consistently ignored.

I am a retired teecher @lucindamcknigh8 hoo speeks sevral languages and hav noan for 64 yeers that Inglish spelling needs moddernising becos it makes lerning tu reed an rite much too difficult. I hav establishd exactly wy too https://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2019/01/worst-irregularities-of-english-spelling.html but continue tu bee ignord.

4,219 out of the moast used 7,000 Inglish words hav unpredictable spellings: 2,828 ireggular (rude, shrewd, move), 1,391 unpredictabl (mood, food). They all hav tu be lerned 1 by 1.

Thats wot makes lerning tu write Inglish exceptionally hard and slo.

Most wasteful English spellings

The many exceptions to its main patterns make English literacy acquisition much slower than with all other Latin-based systems. Most English spellings have some exceptions, but five spelling flaws hinder progress in learning to read and write worst:

1. Irregular spellings for short e, i, o and u, in at least 200 common words like ‘said, busy, was, other’, instead of ‘bed, dizzy, dog, upper’, as used in 1,300 other words.

2. 459 unpredictably spelt /ee/ (eel – eat, even, field, police, ceiling people, me, key, ski, quay, debris).  


3. Unpredictable consonant doubling in ca 1,275 words (very merry, arise arrive).

4. Different spellings for different meanings of 335 identically sounding words  (e.g. it’s/its, their/there), despite   2,000+words causing no difficulties with  just one spelling for their different meanings (bank, tank, mean…) and 113 sets of different words sharing one spelling (e.g. read, row, wind).


4. Surplus letters (give, imagine, promise – cf. spiv,  urchin,  tennis  and drive, define, surprise).


5. Lack of a dominant spelling pattern for 13 sounds, because their main spelling is outnumbered by  words which spell them differently. The /oo/ sound, for example, is spelt  oo in 94 words, but differently in 103, thereby necessitating word by word learning of all 197.
      This is also the case for the 459 with /ee/, 194 with /er/ (her, third, turn),   264  -en /-on/ –eon … endings  (widen, pardon, truncheon, orphan, cretin, certain) and nine other sounds which occur in fewer words.

The irregular spellings for e, i, o and u affect fewer words than the other main flaws. But because they occur in many of the most used English words, they are some of the worst retardants of progress in the early years of learning to read and write. They undermine the regular spellings with which pupils are taught sounds and letters to begin with:

‘bed, led – head; winning, swimmer – women;  got, hot – washed; much, funny – money’.       All words affected by the above problems can be seen in this blog and also this.

The irregular use of  consonant doubling in hundreds of longer words (poppy – copy) is unfathomable and undermines the regular doubling which is used when several hundred short words are made longer with suffixes (e.g. bag – bagged, bagging).      It misleads many children and adults into logical doubling after short stressed vowels (e.g. fammily, hollidays, annimals). Such ‘mistakes’ show that the basic idea of doubling for showing short vowels is easy to grasp. It is difficult only because many words have omitted or surplus doublings (study, very, salad;  annoy, arrive, erratic – cf. muddy, merry, ballad; another, arise, erase). 

Different spellings for different meanings of identically pronounced words (here/hear) and surplus letters (gone, numb) are blatant abuses of the alphabetic principle, of using letters for the regular representation of speech sounds. – Heterographs like ‘meat/meet’ deliberately spell the same sound irregularly. 

Silent letters spell no sound at all and do nothing except make learning to read and write harder than need be. They serve no useful purpose whatsoever.

Sounds without a main spelling (blue, shoe, flew, through, too…) also all disobey the alphabetic principle. Their spellings can all only be learned with laborious word by word memorisation.

The worst impeders of English literacy progress are irregular spellings which are used for more than one sound (mum – month, most; shout – should, shoulder). They make not just learning to write difficult but learning to read too.

The Finnish and Korean writing systems which are completely regular and have none of the flaws of English spelling enable children to learn to read and write roughly ten times faster: three months instead of three years for learning to read and one year instead of ten for learning to write.  

The failure to improve English spelling for past few centuries has resulted in much educational failure as well as many costs. In addition to making learning to read and write exceptionally slow and difficult, its five main flaws also make literacy progress heavily dependent on individual help at home and children’s innate abilities. Bright children whose parents nurture their interest in learning to read almost from the day they are born, start school with a big advantage, compared to their less well nurtured or innately disadvantaged peers.      

Being regularly read to from a young age, and starting to see common trick words like ‘one, two, shoe, do, does’ on the pages of simple books, makes a very big difference to how well children cope with them later. Making English spelling more systematic (by bringing substantial numbers of irregular spellings into line with the main English spelling patterns), could make learning to read and write much quicker and easier, and much fairer for parentally or innately disadvantaged children.

Unkind to kids

A recent article in The Conversation (like many others)

tells us that school attainment is heavily linked to social class

as assessed by parental occupation, education and household income.

It shows no awareness that this applies mainly to English-speaking countries

because learning to read and write English is vastly harder than in other languages

and more dependent on the help kids get at home, from the day they are born.

How they are spoken to, how much they their parents read to them

the games they play with them before they start school

and the help they give them when they first start learning to read and write

in English all make an enormous difference.

It’s vastly harder to decipher and fathom spellings like

many men’, ‘once only’ and ‘through rough troughs

if you haven’t met them before starting school,

if you have not already spent several years half-learning them,

by meeting them in picture books,

comfortably ensconced next to mum or dad.

Learning to read and write in languages that always spell

the /e/ sound as in ‘the ten men then went…’,

or /o/ only as in the ‘pot got hot on top’ and

/oo/ just as in ‘food, mood’ and ‘brood’,

is ten times easier than with the English spelling mess.

More sensible spellings

make kids’ educational prospects much less dependent on their parents.

We could make children’s early school years much fairer,

less stressful and more enjoyable

by removing at least the very worst gremlins from English spelling.

Old spellings like ‘ytte, inne, hadde‘ look a bit daft to us now,

but we keep using ‘give, have, live‘ alongside ‘five, drive, strive’

and monstrosities like ‘through rough trough

without any thought what they do to kids.

English spelling is insane

English spelling is insane.

It’s neither great nor right to write

late straight eight and vain champaign in veins.

We keep children busy and make them dizzy

with too many swimming women and big builders of cruisers,

with friends in fields and pieces of pie

and police chiefs who seek to speak to evil cheeky sheiks.

We turn them off learning with

too much ploughing through rough stuff,

through tough troughs and rough coughs,

low brows and high boughs.

We make them waste time

without reason or rhyme

and pretend not to know how come

some score so low

and keep spelling in ways

that make children fail.

Bridging the education gap

Schoolchildren cannot learn much of anything without learning to read first. Learning to read English is exceptionally difficult. Because of this, between 18 to 20 per cent of English-speaking students still have severe reading difficulties by the end of their compulsory education. Writing defeats many more.
English spelling makes learning to read and write much harder and slower than nearly all other writing systems. This could be made much easier by merely undoing some of the damaging changes inflicted on English spelling since it was first adapted from Latin in the 7th century. The most handicapping were adoption of irregular spellings for:     short /u/  (come, once, touch),
      short /e/  (e.g. head, said, friend) 
      and /ee/  (read, believe, weird, police, people …);
unsystematic consonant doubling (with inconsistencies like ‘finish dinner’) and
surplus-e endings (e.g. have, gone, imagine ) which dilute their use in words like ‘save, bone‘ and ‘define‘.
All common words with those irregularities are shown among the 4,219 unpredictably spelt words [accompanied by respellings which show how they would be spelt if they complied with the main rules of English spelling].

Nearly all children make good progress with both reading and writing when they start school, because they are initially taught mainly with regularly spelt short words, like ‘dad met him on the bus’. If /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/ were always spelt consistentlyt like that, their reading and writing would continue to improve rapidly. It becomes markedly slower only when pupils begin to be introduced to more and more words in which some of the letters with which they first learned to read are used for different sounds, such as ‘was, he, kind, once, push’.
       Irregular spellings for a, i and o impede learning less seriously than those for /e/ and /u/ because:
      1) Short /a/ is spelt irregularly only in ‘plait, plaid’ and ‘meringue’.
      2) Short /i/ is irregular in six common words (build, built, English, pretty, busy, women).  The other 37, which are all spelt with y (abyss, crypt, syllable …), and also ‘sieve’ and ‘vineyard’ are less common and hinder reading progress much less .
      3) Short /o/ is spelt abnormally in only 33 words, mostly with a after w and qu (was, want, squash…). Only a few more recently imported English words use o for /o/ (wobbly, wombat), but wa and qua cause some reading difficulties (swan swam; was wagging) and would ideally be improved too.

Irregular spellings for /e/ and /u/ impede progress worse, because they occur in many of the tricky words that children begin to meet soon after they start learning to read. Improving at least most of them would make a clearly noticeable difference to young children’s literacy progress. They also make strong candidates for reform because most of them were made irregular with deliberate changes to the original English spelling system.
     Regular spellings for short /u/ were diluted mainly in the 9th century, with the adoption of o next to n, m, v and w (son, mother, love, wonder). This was partly because the letter v (Latin numeral 5) was at first used for four sounds (i.e. vp, vse, even, vvith).
     Spellings for short /e/ became irregular mainly in the 15th century, with the adoption of ea in 51 words (dread, head, thread) and also for /ee/ in 156 words (dream, heal, treat). The reading difficulties which this change introduced are epitomised by ‘must read’ and ‘have read’. They could be much reduced by at least dropping the surplusa from the 51 words in which ea spells the short /e/ sound.
     Adoption of regular spellings for /ee/ would also be of great help. The current 12 different spellings for /ee/ (leave, sleeve, even, believe, weird, people…) are used in 459 words and pose one of the biggest hurdles in learning to write English. But they cause many reading difficulties as well, because nine of the different spellings for /ee/ are used for other sounds too:
Treat – great, threat, react; even – ever; ceiling – veil, eider; fiend – friend, died, diet;
 hethen; keythey; machinedefine, engine; people – leopard, leotard; skihi.

In addition to making learning to read easier, reducing the 12 unpredictable spellings for the /ee/ sound to just ee, would reduce the current total of 4,219 unpredictably spelt common English words by more than a tenth and make learning to write much easier too. Even the single change of adopting ee for just the 156 words in which /ee/ is currently spelt with ea (lead, to read) would make a substantial difference.
     Completely regular spellings for /ee/ would have the additional benefit of reducing the 335 differently spelt English homophones like ‘heel/heal’ by 47. They became standardised in 1755, with the publication of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary. They cause endless misspellings without serving any useful purpose. At least 2,500 other homophones get by perfectly well with just one spelling for their different meanings (bank, boot, trunk, act, play…). The US adoption of ‘practice’, for both noun and verb, has caused no problems either. The perverse English differentiation between ‘to practise’ and ‘a practice’ generates endless ‘misspellings’ (cf. to service, a service; to notice, a notice).
     Johnson was also responsible for weakening the English method of distinguishing between short and long vowels, as in ‘made, madder’ or ‘hidden hideout‘, by introducing hundreds of exceptions like ‘radish, shadow, study’. There is no good reason why his whims should continue to be obeyed and why regular consonant doubling – only after stressed short vowels in words of more than one syllable – should not become as acceptable as its current random usage.
     Children’s ‘errors’, like ‘annimal’, ‘fammily’ and ‘holliday’’, show that the original purpose of doubling is easy to grasp. It causes endless ‘mistakes’ only because it is used unsystematically. Adoption of systematic doubling would reduce the time currently needed for learning to read and write English very considerably, but it would also change the present look of hundreds of words. – If adopting completely systematic consonant doubling should be deemed too much change for one reform, it should at least be adopted when regularising irregular spellings of short /e/ and /u/. Several dozen words have no doubled consonants after their irregular spellings (e.g. many, dozen – cf. penny, buzzer).
     Some words with irregular spellings for /e/ and /u/ have surplus letters as well as omitted doubling (e.g. honey – cf. runny). They were added mainly in the 15th and 16th centuries, by printers who were paid by the line, to help them to earn more money. All they do now is to make learning to read more difficult than it could be. Surplus -e endings hinder reading progress because they undermine the use of -e for indicating long vowels, as in ‘home, alone’. They make learning to read more difficult (five – live), just like omitted consonant doubling. They should be scrapped when short vowels get regularised (e.g. done → dun, some →sum, honey → hunny).

There is much else wrong with English spelling, but some irregularities would be more difficult to regularise, because they have no clear best spelling (e.g. her, bird, turned). They also create predominantly only writing difficulties and are therefore less detrimental to overall literacy progress.
     The irregular spelling for /e/, /u/ and /ee/, inconsistent consonant doubling and surplus -e are most responsible for English-speaking countries continuing to have high levels of functional illiteracy. Improving them would be a more certain and permanent way of speeding up learning to read and write and raising overall educational attainment, than changes in teaching methods or increases in educational expenditure. Ideally, all five of those spelling flaws would get corrected. But even just reducing exceptions to e, u and ee would make a very substantial difference to learners.       mashabell@aol.com

How the worst English spellings could be improved

Irregular spelling systems make learning to read and write harder and slower than regular ones. The more exceptions a system has the harder it is to master. The English writing system has more exceptions than all others. The few spellings that are regular are sometimes used silently, without connection to any sound (e.g. debt, receipt). But some irregularities hinder literacy learning much more than others. The most damaging are the irregular spellings for short /e/ and short /u/, followed by the many variants for /ee/, surplus -e endings and omitted or needlessly doubled consonants (column, collect – college).

Below you can see 1,393 irregularly spelt common words affected by those irregularities – the ones which are most responsible for making learning to read and write English roughly ten times slower than systematically spelt languages: 61 words with  short /e/ , 68  short /u/,   326 with variants for /ee/, 146 words with surplus -e endings and  794 words with omitted or surplus consonant doubling.

The 794 words with omitted or surplus consonant doubling all have to be learned one by one, but they do even more damage by undermining the systematic doubling used in 504 words which helpt to differentiate between long and short vowels, as in ‘made madder‘. If doubling was used systematically, it would be easy to grasp, and this huge learning burden would not exist.

Amending all five major flaws in English spelling would make it much more rule-governed and much easier and less time-consuming to learn and teach. The words next to the ones with irregular spellings show how they would be spelt if they were spelt systematically, using the main English spelling patterns.

Even improving just the 129 words with irregularly spelt /e/ or /u/ would make a big difference to children at the start of their schooling, because they are mostly very common words which children know and use. If they were had regular spellings, young children would get much less muddles and put off learning in their early school years.

  1. Words with irregular spellings for /e/ in the left-hand column would look as shown on the right, if they were spelt regularly and had regularly doubled consonants as well (e.g. ‘reddy’ like ‘teddy’).
Bred/bread,
breadth, breast, breath, dead, deaf, dealt,
death, dread, dreamt, head, health, led/lead, leant/lent, leapt, meant, red/read, realm, spread, sweat, thread, threat, wealth.    Breakfast, cleanliness, cleanse, endeavour, feather, heather, instead, leather, measure, stealthy, treacherous, treadmill, treasure, weather/whether. Heaven, heavy, jealous, meadow, peasant, pheasant, pleasant, ready, (already), steady, weapon, zealous.   
Berry/bury, any, many. Jeopardy, leopard. Heifer. Friend, every, said, says.  Wednesday.
Bred,  bredth,  brest,  breth, ded, def, delt,
deth, dred, dremt, hed, helth,  led, lent, lept, ment, red, relm, spred,  swet, thred, thret, welth.      Brekfast, clenliness, clense, endevour,  fether, hether, insted, lether, mesure, stelthy, trecherous, tredmill, tresure, wether. Hevven, hevvy, jellous, meddow, pezzant, phezzant, plezzant, reddy,(alreddy), steddy, weppon, zellous.  
Berry, enny, menny. Jeppardy, leppard. Heffer. Frend, evry, sed, ses, Wensday.
Leisure’ and ‘lieutenant’ have different pronunciations in the UK and US.

2) With regularly spelt short /u/ the 68 words below would become:                                                            

Among, Monday, monger, mongrel, monk, monkey, month, mother, smother. Comfort, company, compass;   front, nothing,  son/sun, ton/tun, tongue, sponge. Wonder, worry. Brother, other.      Above, come, dove, glove, love, shove, some/sum.  Done/dun, none/nun.  Does.    Country, young.    Enough, rough/ruff, slough,  tough,  hiccup/hiccough,  southern, touch.  One/won, once     Blood, flood.      Colour/color, dozen, honey, money, onion, stomach, thorough, cover, covet, covey, covenant, govern, oven, shovel, slovenly.     Double, couple, trouble. courage, cousin, nourish.Amung, Munday, munger, mungrel, munk, munky, munth, muther, smuther. Cumfort, cumpany, cumpass;   frunt, nuthing,  sun, tun, tung, spunge. Wunder, wurry. Bruther, uther.      Abuv, cum, duv, gluv, luv, shuv,  sum.    Dun, nun.  Dus.   Cuntry, yung.    Enuff,  ruf, sluf,slou,  tuf,  hickup,  suthern, tuch.    Wun, wunce     Blud, flud.      Cullour/cullor (UK/US) duzzen, hunny, munny, unnion, stummac, thurru, cuvver, cuvvet, cuvvy, cuvvenant, guvvern, uvven, shuvvel, sluvvenly.     Dubble, cupple, trubble. currage, cuzzin, nurrish.

3) With regularised spellings for the /ee/ sound

119 words which are currently spelt with ea would become: Appeel, beecon, beed, beek, beem, beerd, beest, beever, beneeth, bleech, bleek, bleet, breethe, ceese, cheet, cleen, cleer, colleegue, conceel, congeel, creem, creese, creeture, deel, deen, decreese, defeet, diseese, dreem, dreery, eech, eeger, eegle, eer, eese, eest, Eester, eet, feer, feest, feeture, freek, geer, gleem, gleen, heep, heet, heeth, heethen, heeve, increese, leef, leegue, leen, leep, leese, leesh, leest, leeve, meegre, meel, meen, meesles, neer, neet, ordeel, peech, peet, pleed, pleese, pleet, preech, queesy, reech, reelly, reep, reer, reeson, releese, repeet, retreet, reveel, screem, seel, seer, seeson, seet, sheef, sheeth, smeer, sneek, speek, speer, squeek, squeel, squeemish, steem, streek, streem, teech, teek, teese, theeatre, treecle, treeson, treet, treety, veel, ween, weery, weesel, weeve, wheet, wreeth, yeer, yeest, zeel. +  Leed/led, teer/tear  
47 words which now have 2 spellings would be: Bee, beech, been, beet, breech, cheep, creek, deer, discreet, eery, feet, flee, freeze, Greece/greece, heel, leech, leek, meet, need, pee, peek, peel, peer, reed, reek, reel, see, seem, seen, sheer, steel, sweet, tee, teem, wee, week, weel; eev, eevs,  jeens,  heer, kee,  peece, seeling, seemen, serial, sheek  
78 words now with an open e would change to:    Hee, mee, shee.      Adheesiv, areena, cafeteeria, ceedar, chameeleon, Chineese, comeedian, compeet, compleet, concreet, conveen, conveenient, deecent, deemon, eequal, eera, eeven, eevil, expeerience, exteerior, extreem, feemale, feever, freequent, geenie, geenius, heero, hyeena, impeerial, infeerior, ingreedient, intermeediate, leegal, leegion, leenient, mateerial, meedium, meer, meeteor, meeter, millipeed, mysteerious, obeedient, peeriod, peeter, polytheen, preceed, preevious, queery, reecent, reecess, reegion, reelay, scheem, seequence, seequin, seeries, seerious, seerum, speecies, spheer, stampeed, strateegic, supeerior, supreem, sweed, teedious, theem, theeory, thees, torpeedo, trapeez, veehicle, Veenus, zeero.   
28 now with open i (e.g. albino):    Albeeno, aubergeen, bikeeni, clementeen, debree, fateeg, guilloteen, macheen, magazeen, margareen, mareen, plasticeen, raveen, routeen, sardeen, tamboureen, tangereen, trampoleen, uneek,  poleece, anteek, moskeeto, presteege, regeem, peeza, Vaseleen, skee, suveneer.  
26 now with ie: Acheev, beleef, beleev, breef, cheef, deesel, feeld, feend, feerce, greef, greev, hygeenic, medeeval, neece, peerce, preest, releef, releev, sheeld, shreek, seege, theef, theev, teer, weeld, yeeld.
13 with ei:   conceev/conceet, deceev/deceet, perceev, receev/receet. Caffeen, codeen, proteen, seeze, weer, weerd.                              
Oddments: Peeple; catheedral, seecret.
+ In UK also: geezer, leever (for geyzer, lever).

6) 146 words have surplus –e endings which obscure their vowel-lengthening function in words like  ‘define, bone, care, endure, advise, inflate, ignite, drive, save, survive’.

Destine,  determine,  discipline,  doctrine,  examine,  engine,  famine,   feminine,  genuine,  heroine,  imagine,  intestine,  jasmine,  masculine,  medicine,  urine,        gone, shone.
Are,  (cf. car, care). Conjure, exposure, failure, figure, fissure, injure, measure, pleasure, pressure, procedure, treasure.      Adventure, agriculture, architecture, capture, caricature, creature, culture, departure, expenditure, feature, fracture, furniture, future, gesture, lecture, legislature, literature, manufacture, miniature, mixture, nature, picture, puncture, scripture, signature, structure, temperature, torture, venture, vulture.  
Purchase,  premise, promise,  purpose.  (cf. atlas, devise, propose).  
Accurate, adequate, affectionate, candidate, chocolate, climate, considerate, corporate, delicate, desperate, extortionate, fortunate, frigate, illiterate, immaculate, immediate, intermediate, intricate, laureate, legitimate, obstinate, palate, passionate, pirate, private, proportionate, senate,       Composite, Definite,  exquisite, favourite, granite,  infinite,  opposite.         In 25 words the –ate endings are used for two different words (to deliberate a deliberate act). Advocate, alternate, appropriate, approximate, articulate, associate, certificate, co-ordinate, degenerate, delegate, deliberate, designate, desolate, dictate, duplicate, elaborate, estimate, graduate, intimate, laminate, moderate, separate, subordinate, syndicate, triplicate (cf. inflate).  
Give, forgive,  have,  live (cf.  drive, save, alive),    abrasiveabusiveadhesiveaggressiveapprehensivecomprehensive,  compulsive,  conclusive,  creativecursivedecisive,  defensive,  depressive,  derisive,  detectivedismissive,  divisiveeffusive,  elusive,  evasive,  excessive,  exclusive,  expensive,  explosive,  expressive,  extensivefugitive,  impressiveimpulsiveincisive,  inclusiveinitiative,  intensiveinvasivemassive,  motive,  narrative,  objectiveobtrusiveoffensive,  oppressivepassive,  pensive,  permissive,  perspectivepersuasivepossessive,  productive,  progressive,  prospectiveradioactive,  repulsiverespective,  responsive,  selective,  sensitive,  subjectivesubmissive,  subversive,  successive.    

5) Respellings for 574 words with currently omitted or variant consonant doubling and 219 words with surplus doubling. 

328 words merely lack doubling after their short, stressed vowels: abillity,  abollish,  abomminable,  academmic,  acaddemy,  aggony,  aluminnium,  Amerrica,  annimal,   apollogise,  aquattic,  Arrab,  arrable,  arrid,  asparragus,  astonnish,  astrollogy,  astronnomy,  athlettic,  attom,  atommic,  authorrity,  avvenue,  avverage,   bannish, bannister,  barommeter, batton,  bennefit,  billious,  boddy,  bottany,  briggand, Brittish,       cabbin,  cabbinet,  calammity,  cammera,  cannopy,  cappita,  cappital, carramel, carravan,  carrol,  cattapult,  cattegory,  cavvalry,  cavvern,  cavvity,      charriot,     charrity,  cherrish, clarrity,  clevver,  clinnical,  collony,  commedy,  commet,  commic, comparrison, connifer,  conspirracy,  continnue,  coppy,  corral,  creddit,  crimminal,  crittic, critical     dammage,  decidduous,  deddicate,  dellicacy,  delivver,  delluge,  demmocrat, demolish  depputy,  derrelict,  devellop,  devvil, dilappidated,  diplomattic,   distribbute,  domminate, dommino,  draggon,  drivvel,  drivven,      econommic,  econnomy,  eddit,  edducate,   electronnic,  ellement,  elevven,  elligible, elimminate,  emmerald,  emmigrate,  empirrical,  enammel,  ennemy,   ennergy,  eppic,  epidemmic,  eppisode,   equivvalent,   evver,  evvidence,   experriment,     fabbulous,  facillities,  fammily,  fammished,  fedderal,  fellon,  finnish,  flaggon,  florrist,  forrest,     gallaxy,  garrage(UK),  givven,  glammour,  grannary,  grattitude,  gravvity,  habbit,  havvoc,  hazzard,  hellicopter,  herrald,  herritage,  herroin,  herron,  hexaggonal,  hiddeous,  historric,   holliday,  horroscope, hovvel,  hovver,     iddiot,  immage, inhabbit,  inherrent,  inherrited,  itallic,      jagguar,  Jannuary,  javvelin,      latteral,  lattitude,  lavvender,  lemmon, lepper, libberal,  libberty,  lilly, limmit, linnear,  litteral, litterary, lizzard, lozzenge,     maddam, magnettic,  magnifficent,  majorrity,  mannage,  mannual,  mannuscript, mathemattics,  meddal,  meddical,  mellody,  mellon,  memmorise,  memmory,  mennu,  merrit,  mettal,  metropollitan,  millitary,  minneral,  minnimal,  minnimum,  minnister, minorrity, mirracle,  moddern, moddest, monnitor,  monottonous,   monnument,  morral, morallity, navvigate, nebbula,  nevver,  numerrical,  oblitterate,  oppera,  opperate,  opinnion,  orrange, organnic,  orrigin,    Paciffic, pallace,  pannic,  parrasol,  parrish,  pathettic,  pellican,  pennalty, pennetrate, perril,  perriscope,  perrish, pettal,  pitty,  plannet,  plattinum,   poettic,  pollicy,  pollish, polittical,  pollitics, poppular,  popularrity,  povverty,  prelimminary,  premmier, primarrily, priorrity, privvilege,  probabillity,   probbable,  prodduct,  proffit,   prohibbit,  promminent,  propper,  propperty,  prossecute,  provverb,  provvidence,  punnish,      quivver,         raddical,  raddish,  rappid,  ravvenous,   reallity,  refference,  reffuge,  rellic, remmedy,  revverend,  riddicule,  rivver,   rivvet,  robbin,      sallad,  sallary,  sallon,  sattin,  satturate,  Satturn,  savvage,  scavvenge,  semmi, sevven,  shivver,  shrivvel,  signifficant,   incerrity,  sinnister,  skelleton,  snivvel,  sollid, sollitary,  spanniel,  speciffic,   spinnach,  spirrit,  stattic,  sterrilise,   strattegy,  strennuous,  studdy,  supersonnic,     tallent,  tallon,  tappestry,  tellescope,  tellevision,  teppid,  tettanus,  theollogy,  therrapist,  thermommeter,  timmid,  tollerate,  tonnic,  toppic,  transparrent,  tribbute, troppics,    vallentine,   vallid,  vallue,  vannish,   ventrilloquist,  verry,  viddeo, viggorous, vinnegar, vitallity,  vollume,  volluntary, vommit,     waggon,  wizzard,  wizzened,   yetti.
  73 words do not use ck, dg, ss or zz,  as in  ‘beckon, badger, passive, buzzard’. With regular doublingthey would look as follows:     crockodile,   deckade,  deckorate,  dockument,  execkutive, fackulty, plackard,  reckognise,   reckord(n), record(v),  ridickulous,  seckond(n),second(v),  seckondary,  seckular,  vackuum,  brockoly,  hickup,  ockupye,  pickolo,  suckulent,  tobacko,     ecko,  meckanism,  checkered,  lacker,  lickor,  lickorish,           adgile,  didgit,  exadgerate, fridgid,  ledgend, ledgislate, lodgic,  madgic, oridginal,  refridgerate, redgiment,  redgister, ridgid,  tradgic,   vedgetable,      assid,  antissipate,  capassity, dessimal,   electrissity,  explissit,  glassier(UK),  munissipal,   spessimen,   velossity,  adolessent,  convalessent,  cressent,  fassinate,      clozzet,  depozzit,  dezzert,  hezzitate,  mizzerable,  pozzitive,  prezzence, prezzent, prezzident,  prizzon, rezzident, rizzen, vizzit.   
55  words are without doubled consonants after irregularly spelt short vowels.  18 with short /e/ and 21 with short /u/ have already been shown above.  The remaining 16 are: busy,  women,   chrysalis,  cylinder,  cynical,  synagogue,  synonym,  syrup,  lyric,  tyranny, typical, physics, physical       laurel, sausage.       With regular spellings and doubling they would become:   Bizzy, wimmen,    chrissalis,  cillinder,  cinnical,  sinnagog,  sinnonim,  sirrup,  lirric,  tirrany, tippical,  fizzics, fizzical,    lorrel,  sossage.  
34 words do not have the -ccle  doubling in endings, like  ‘apple, little, etc.’ couple, double,  trouble,  apostle,  bristle,  bustle,  camel,  chapel,  chisel,  drivel,  enamel,  gravel,  gristle,  grovel,  hovel,  hustle,  jostle,  level,  model,  muscle/mussel,  novel,  panel,  rustle,  shrivel,  snivel,  subtle,  swivel,  thistle,   travel,  treble,  trestle,  triple,  whistle,  wrestle.    They should be: cupple, dubble,  trubble,  apossle,  brissle,  bussle,  cammle,  chapple,  chizzle,  drivvle,  enammle,  gravvle,  grissle,  grovvle,  hovvle,  hussle,  jossle, levvle,  moddle,  mussle,  novvle,  pannle,  russle,  shrivvle, snivvle,  suttle,  swivvle,  thissle,  travvle,  trebble,  tressle,  tripple,  wissle,  ressle.  
85 words have assorted additional irregularities:  Adequate,  comparative,  feminine, frigate,  heroine,  minute(x2)  negative,  olive,  palate/palette/pallet,  primitive,  relative,  senate,   amateur,  camouflage,  catalogue, cemetery,  column,  foreign,  honest,  honour,  monarch,  monastery,  shadow,  sheriff,   scissors,  solemn,  widow, premise,   promise,  menace,  novice,  analysis,  anonymous,  anorak,  beret,  cabaret,  café,  chalet,  calendar,  caterpillar, chemical,  chemistry, civil,dynamic, elephant,  endeavour, laminate(x2),  lieutenant,  moderate(x2),  pacify, platypus,  plumber,  polythene, qualify,  quality, quarantine,   rebel(x2), refuse(x2), regular,  salmon,  Saturday,  separate(x2),  similar,  similesugartenor/tenner,  valiant, venison, verify, ,  detach.   They should be addequat,  comparrativ,  femminin,  friggat, herroin,  minnit(n,v) + minute(adj),  neggativ, olliv, pallet,  primmitiv,  rellativ,  sennat,  ammatur,  cammuflage,  cattalog,  semmetry,  collum,  forren,  onnest,  onner,  monnark,  monnastry, shaddo, sherrif,   sizzers,  sollem,  widdo,  premmis,   prommis,   mennis,   novvis,  anallisis,  anonnimous,  annorac,  berray,  cabbaray,  caffay,  challay,   callender,  catterpiler,   kemmical,  kemmistry, sivvil,dinammic, ellefent,  endevver, lamminate(v) + lamminat(adj),   leftennent(UK),  lutennent(US), modderate(vb) +  modderat(adj), passifye, plattipus,  plummer,  pollytheen,  quollifye,  quollity, quarranteen,  rebble(n) + rebel(vb),    reffuse (n) + refuse(vb),  regguler,  sammon,  Satterday,  sepparate(vb) + sepparat(adj),  simmiler,  simmilyshugger,  tenner,  vallient, vennisen, verrifye, detatch.   

219 words have surplus consonant doubling – not after a short, stressed vowel.

         Some of them have other irregularities as well (affectionate, excellent), including missing doubling (satellite).


abbreviate, accompany, accomplish, accord, accordance, accordion, account, accrue, accumulate, accuse, accustom, occur,  occurrence, cockerel, cocktail, mackerel, add/ad, odd, address(uk), affair, affect, affection, affectionate, affluent, afford, chauffeur, differential, diffusion, effect, efficient, effluent, effusivegiraffe, graffiti, offence, offend, offensive,  official, officious, paraffin, sheriff, sufficient, aggravate, aggressive, egg, alliance, allotment, allow, allowance,  allowed/aloud, ballistic, balloon,  bull, bulldoze, cell/sell, collage, collapse,  collect, collection, collide, constellation,  controlled, excellent, hello, illegal, illegible, illiterate, illuminate,  illusion, illustration, installation,  intellectual, jewellery,  llama, marvellous,  parallel, pastille, roller, satellite, swollen, tonsillitis, traveller(UK), wholly, accommodation, ammunition, command, commemorate, commence, commission,  commit, commodities, commotion, communication, communion, community,  commuter, immaculate, immediate,  immense, immersion, immortal, immune, programme, programmer, recommend, anniversary, announce, annoy, annul,  connect, Finn/fin, inn, mayonnaise,  personnel, questionnaire, savannah,  tyranny, appal, apparatus, apparent, appendix,  applaud, applause, appliance, apply,  appoint, appreciate, apprehensive,  apprentice, approach, appropriate(adj), appropriate(vb), approve, approximate(adj), approximate(vb),  hippopotamus, opportunity, oppose,  sapphire, supply, support, suppose, arrange, array, arrest, arrive, barricade,  correct, correlation, correspond,  curriculum, err, erratic, hurrah, interrupt,  irregular, irrigation, purr, serrated, surrender, surreptitious, surround, terrific, torrential, verruca, abscess, assail, assassin, assassinate,  assault, assemble, assert, assessment,  assessor, assign, assist, assistant, associate(n), associate(vb), assort,  assume, cassette, compass, congress, cypress, dessert, embassy, essential,  fission, fortress, gross, guess, harness, lasso, mattress, moose/mousse,  necessarily, necessary,  possess, possessive, possibility,  recess, witness, attach, attack, attain, attempt, attend,  attention, attorney, attract, attribute, battalion, butt/but,  cigarette, omelette, palette, silhouette,  pizza
abreeviate, acumpany, acumplish, acord, acordence, acordion, acount, acrue, acumulate, acuse, acustom, ocurr, ocurrence,  cocrel, coctail, macrle, ad, od, adress(uk), afair, afect, afection, afectionat, afluent, aford,  shofer, diferential, difusion, efect, eficient, efluent, efusiv,  giraf, grafeety, ofence, ofend, ofensiv,  oficial, oficious, parrafin, sherrif, suficient, agravate, agressiv, eg, aliance, alotment, alow, alowence, aloud, balistic, baloon,  bul, buldoze, sel, colage, colapse,  colect, colection, colide, constelation, controled, exelent, helo, ileegal, iledgible, ilitterat, iluminate, ilusion, ilustration, instalation,  intelectual, jewelry, lama, marvelous, parralel, pastil, roler, sattelite, swolen, toncilitis, travvler(UK), holy, acomodation, amunition, comand,  comemmorate, comence, comission, comit, comoddities, comotion, comunication, comunion, comunity,  comuter, imackulat, imeediat,  imence, imersion, imortal, imune, program, programer, recomend, aniversary, anounce, anoy, anull,  conect, Fin/fin, in, mayonaise,  personell, questionair, savanna,  tirrany, apaul, aparatus, aparrent, apendix, aplaud, aplause, aplience, aplye,  apoint, apreeciate, aprehensiv,  aprentice, aproach, apropriat(adj), apropriate(vb), aproove,  aproximat(adj), aproximate(vb),  hipopottamus, oportunity, opose,  saffire, suplye, suport, supose, arainge, aray, arest, arive, baricade,  corect, corelation, corespond,  curickulum, er,erattic, hurah, interupt,  iregguler, irigation, pur,  serated, surender, sureptitious, suround,  teriffic, torential, verooca, abces, asail, asassin, asassinate,  asault, asemble, asert, asesment,  asessor, asine, asist, asistent,  asociat(n), asociate(vb), asort,  asume, caset, cumpas, congres,  siperes, desert, embacy, esential,  fision, fortres, groce, ges, harnes,  lasoo, matres, mooce,  necesarrily, nessesary,  posess, posessiv, posibillity,  reeces, witnes, atatch, atack, atain, atempt, atend, atention, atorny, atract, atribute,batallion, but, sigaret, omlet, palet, silooet,  peetsa

       In addition to the above irregularities, several dozen words have needlessly doubled  -ff, -ll, -ss  (puff, well, fuss )  at the end of short words. They have many exceptions too (if, us, rough, yes) and are confusing young children     (doll – roll – stole,   shall – call – crawl).

Lowering barriers to reading

Reducing the worst irregularities of English spelling

English spelling is in need of reform because it makes learning to read and write too slow and difficult. It entrenches educational underperformance and inequality, because it leaves literacy acquisition too heavily dependent on home background and help from parents. But after centuries of putting up with a shambolic system, the main aim of reform should now best be just to make learning to read easier.  Spelling ability is becoming less important, because most adults now write only on electronic devices which automatically correct the majority of mistakes. On mobiles phones, writing has become largely just a matter of recognising the right word and tapping on it. Reading remains essential, for education, life and work.

Learning to read English could also be made easier with much less change to the English spelling habits than learning to write. It could be greatly speeded up by merely undoing some of the worst changes inflicted on it since it was first adapted from Latin in the 7th century by:

Reducing exceptions to short /e/ (e.g. head, said, friend),  short /u/ (come, once, touch)
and  /ee/ (speak, even, believe, weird, people …),  
Reverting to sensible consonant doubling (without inconsistencies like ‘finish dinner; announce annual’)
and  dropping surplus -e endings (gone, have) which undermine their sensible use (bone, save).

All common words with the above irregularities [along with respellings which show how they would look if spelt systematically] can be seen in chapter 11, “Amendments which would help learners most”, in my blog English spelling and its effects, entitled .

One of the strongest reasons for reforming English spelling is to make the early school years less difficult and demotivating. Its irregularities make the lives of young children much harder and less enjoyable, and much more dependent on help from adults, than in other languages. And one of the biggest causes of this are the irregular spellings for a, e, i, o and u in around 200 much used words, like ‘said, any, other’. Any reduction in their number would be helpful. 

Nearly all children make good progress with both learning to read and write when they first start, because they are mostly taught only with regularly spelt short words, like ‘dad met him on the bus’. If /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/ were always spelt like that, their reading and writing would continue to improve rapidly. It becomes markedly slower only when they begin to be introduced to words in which some of the letters with which they first learned to read are used for different sounds, such as ‘was, he, kind, once, push’.

The irregular spellings for a, i and o do not impede progress as much as those for e and u because: 1) Short /a/ is spelt irregularly just in ‘plait, plaid’ and ‘meringue’.  2) Short /i/ is irregular in only six common words (build, built, English, pretty, busy, women). The other 39 are less common and hinder learning much less (abyss, crypt, syllable, synchronise, system).  3) Short /o/ is spelt abnormally in only 33 words, mostly with a after w and qu (was, want, squash…). Only a few more recently coined words use o (wobbly, wombat), but wa and qua cause some reading difficulties (swan swam; was wagging) and would ideally be improved too.

The irregular spellings for /e/ and /u/ obstruct progress worst of all, because they occur in many of the tricky words that children begin to meet soon after they first start school. Improving at least most of them would make a clearly noticeable difference to young children’s literacy progress. They also make strong candidates for reform because most of them were made irregular with deliberate changes to the original English spelling system.

The spelling of short /u/ was diluted chiefly in the 9th century, with the adoption of o next to n, m, v and w  (son, mother, love, wonder). This was partly because the letter v (or Latin number 5) was back then used for four sounds (i.e. vp, vse, even, vvith). Spellings for short /e/ became irregular mainly in the 15th century, with the adoption of ea in 51 words (dread, head, thread) and for /ee/ in 156 words as well (dream, heal, treat). The reading difficulties which this change introduced are epitomised by ‘must read’ and ‘have read’. They could be much reduced by at least dropping the surplus a from the 51 words in which ea spells the short /e/ sound.

Adoption of regular spellings for the /ee/ sound would be of great help too, to both young and older learners. The current 12 different spellings for /ee/ (leave, sleeve, believe, these, weird, police, people…) are used in 459 words and pose one of the biggest hurdles in learning to write English. But they cause many reading difficulties as well, because nine of the 12 different spellings for /ee/ are used for other sounds too:

Treat – great, threat, react;   even – ever;  ceiling – veil, eider;  fiend – friend, died, diet;   he – then;  key – they;  machine – define, engine;   people – leopard, leotard;  ski – hi.

Reducing the 12 unpredictable spellings for the /ee/ sound to just ee, would reduce the current total of 4,219 unpredictably spelt common English words by more than a tenth and make learning to read much easier too. Even adopting ee for just the 156 words in which /ee/ is currently spelt with ea (lead, to read) would make a substantial difference. Completely regular spellings for /ee/ would have the additional benefit of reducing the 335 differently spelt, labour-intensive English homophones like ‘heel/heal’ by 47. They became standardised with the publication of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary in 1755, although they hardly ever serve any useful purpose. At least 2,500 other homophones get by perfectly well with just one spelling for their different meanings (bank, boot, trunk, act, play…). The US adoption of ‘practice’, for both noun and verb, has caused no problems either. The perverse English differentiation between ‘to practise’ and ‘a practice’ generates endless ‘misspellings’ (cf. to service, a service; to notice, a notice).

Johnson was also responsible for weakening the English method of distinguishing between short and long vowels, as in ‘made, madder’ or ‘hidden hideout’, by introducing hundreds of exceptions like ‘radish, shadow, study’. There is no good reason why his whims should continue to be obeyed and why regular consonant doubling – only after stressed short vowels in words of more than one syllable – should not become as acceptable as its current random usage. Children’s ‘errors’, like ‘annimal’, ‘fammily’ and ‘holliday’’, show that the original purpose of doubling is easy to grasp. It causes endless ‘mistakes’ only because it is used unsystematically. Adoption of systematic doubling would reduce the time currently needed for learning to read and write English very considerably. But unfortunately, it would also change the present look of hundreds of words. If adopting completely systematic consonant doubling should be considered to be too much change for one reform, it should at least be adopted when regularising irregular spellings of short /e/ and /u/. A few dozen of them have no doubled consonants after their irregular spellings (e.g. many, dozen – cf. penny, buzzer).

Some words with irregular /e/ and /u/ have surplus letters as well, along with omitted doubling (e.g. honey – cf. runny). They were added mainly in the 15th and 16th centuries, to help printers earn more money, as they were paid by the line. All they do now is to make learning to read more difficult. Surpluse endings hinder reading progress because they undermine the use of -e for indicating long vowels, as in ‘home, alone (e.g. bone – gone, five – live), just like omitted consonant doubling. They should at least be scrapped when their short vowel spellings get regularised (e.g. done → dun, some sum, honey hunny).

There is much else wrong with English spelling, but some irregularities would be more difficult to regularise, because they have no clear best spelling (e.g.  her, bird, turned). They also create predominantly only writing difficulties and are therefore less detrimental to overall literacy progress (e.g. ‘pardon, certain, urban, truncheon’).

The irregular spelling for /e/, /u/ and /ee/, inconsistent consonant doubling and surplus uses of –e are most responsible for English-speaking countries continuing to have high levels of functional illiteracy. Improving them would be a more certain and permanent way of speeding up literacy acquisition and raising overall educational attainment, than changes in teaching methods or increases in educational expenditure. Ideally, all five irregularities would get corrected. But even just making the uses of e, u and ee more regular would make a very substantial difference to learners.

Repairs which would help learners most

One problem which is at least partly responsible for preventing modernisation of English spelling is the large number of its irregularities. It has become so unsystematic that it is no longer immediately obvious which spellings are rule-governed and which not. It was not until the 1950s, when Paul and Jean Hannah devised the first computer program for identifying main and variant spellings, that this became easier.

They concluded that half of all English words contain unsystematic spellings. In the late 1990s I used Microsoft Excel for locating regular and irregular spellings in words which pupils can be expected to have met by age 16. In the 7,000 words which I analysed, I found 4,219 with one or more unpredictable spellings.

The difficulties of identifying regular and irregular spellings led most earlier reformers, from John Hart in the 16th century to Bernard Shaw in the 20th, to propose the adoption of a completely new English spelling system. Most current members of the English Spelling Society also still favour the phonically simplest solution, of just one spelling for all the 44 sounds.

Theoretically this is possible. The current 205 spellings offer plenty of choice, although not quite enough, despite their vast number. – The short /oo/ sound of ‘foot, put, could’ has no spelling of its own (cf. boot, cut, shoulder), and the soft and sharp /th/ sounds of ‘this thing’ share the same spelling. – But 40 sounds could easily be left with just one easily readable spelling, such as:      a, ai, air, ar, au,     b, ch, d, e, ee,      er, f, g, h, i,           ie,  j, k, l, m,     n, ng, o,  oa, oi,     oo, or, ou, p, r,   s, sh, t, u, ue,   v, w, y, z, si.

This would however change the appearance of written English quite dramatically. The start of this post, for example, would end up looking something like: [Wun problem wich iz perhaps at leest partli responsibl for preventing moderniezaishn ov Inglish speling iz the larj number ov its iregularitees. It haz bicum soa unsistematic …]

The alien look of most earlier reform proposals was probably at least partly responsible for their failure to find favour. Webster’s original scheme for the US was rejected too.  Only a small number of his changes, designed to make some American spellings slightly different from UK ones, have ended up in US dictionaries (center, labor, supervize).

Learning to read and write English could however be made much easier without altering any of its main spelling patterns. It could be much improved by merely undoing some of the worst changes introduced over the centuries. The literacy progress of beginners especially, could be made much faster by merely reducing exceptions to:                          the spellings of e, i, o and u (head, women, want, some),                                                      /ee/ (speak, speech, even, believe, weird, people …),                                                         omitted consonant doublings (funny – money) and                                                         surplus letters (gone, have).

The spelling of short /u/ next to n, m, v and w was first made irregular with o  (son, mother, love, wonder) in the 9th century, when the letter v (or Latin number 5) was used to spell four sounds (i.e. vp, vse, even, vvith). Now that the sounds of short /u/, /v/ and /w/ (double vv) have different spellings, the use of o for /u/ does nothing but make learning to read more difficult.

The 15th century introduction of ea, for both short /e/ and /ee/ (bread, head; to lead, to read) in 51 and 156 words, created even worse reading and spelling difficulties. They could already be much reduced by at least dropping the surplus a from the 51 words in which ea spells /e/ (head, meant  → hed, ment).

The most detrimental part of irregular English spellings is to make the first two school years much harder than need be. And the biggest cause of this are the irregular spellings for short vowels, in around 200 very much used words like ‘said, any, other’. Any reduction in their number would be of great help to pupils at the elementary level, but especially irregular spellings for /e/ and /u/.

Nearly all children make good progress at the start of learning to read and write, because they are usually at first taught only with regularly spelt short words, like ‘dad met him on the bus’. – If /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/ were always spelt like that, their reading and writing would continue to improve rapidly. It becomes markedly slower only when pupils begin to meet more and more words in which same letters spell different sounds, like ‘was, he, kind, once, push’.

Short /a/ is spelt irregularly just in ‘plait, plaid’ and ‘meringue’. Exceptions to short /i/ make only 6 common words tricky (build, built, English, pretty, busy, women). The other 39 occur less often and do not obstruct early learning significantly (abyss, crypt, cyclical… sieve.)  The irregular use of [a] for /o/ after w and qu (was, want, squash…) in 29 words is almost predictable. It is spelt regularly only in a few words like ‘wobbly, wombat, wonky’, but wa and qua cause some reading difficulties (swan swam; was wagging).

The irregular spellings for /e/ and /u/ hinder early progress much more, because they occur in many of the tricky words that children meet soon after starting school. Improving at least most of those would make a clearly noticeable difference to their  literacy learning.

Adopting the even bigger change of regular spellings for the /ee/ sound would also be of great help, to both young and older pupils. The 12 different spellings for /ee/ (leave, sleeve, believe, these, weird, police, people…) are used in 459 words and pose one of the biggest memorisation burdens in learning to write English. Nine of the 12 different spellings are used for other sounds as well and cause reading difficulties in addition to spelling ones:  treat – great, threat, react;     even – ever;    ceiling – veil, eider;               fiend – friend, died, diet;   he – then;  key – they;  machine – define, engine;    ski – hi;  people – leopard, leotard.

Adopting ee for all the different spellings for /ee/ would clearly help learners immensely. This amendment alone would reduce the current total of 4,219 unpredictably spelt common English words by more than a tenth. Even adopting ee for just the 156 words in which /ee/ is currently spelt with ea (lead, to read → leed, reed) would make a substantial difference.

Regular spellings for /ee/ would also help to reduce the labour caused by differently spelt homophones like ‘heel/heal’ which are an endless source of English misspellings. – At least 2,500 other homophones get by perfectly well with just one spelling for their different meanings (bank, boot, trunk, act, play…). The US use of ‘practice’, for both noun and verb, causes no problems either, while the English differentiation between ‘to practise’ and ‘a practice’ is continually ‘misspelt’.

The different spellings for 335 homophones became standardised in 1755, when Samuel Johnson published his authoritative dictionary.  Johnson was also responsible for weakening  the English method of distinguishing between short and long vowels (mad, madder – made). He made the system unpredictable, with hundreds of exceptions like ‘radish, shadow, study’.

There is no good reason why his whims should continue to be obeyed. Consonant doubling could easily be used consistently instead. Children’s ‘errors’, like ‘annimal’, ‘fammily’ and ‘holliday’’, show that its original purpose is easy to grasp.

Should repairing irregular /e/, /u/ and /ee/ and inconsistent consonant doubling together be deemed too much change for one reform, systematic doubling should at least be adopted when amending irregular uses of e, i, o or  u. Several dozen words have irregular vowel spellings and omitted consonant doubling (e.g. many, women – cf. penny, swimmer). Some words with irregular /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/ have surplus letters as well as omitted doubling (honey – runny). A few have surplus letters instead of doubling (ready – teddy).

Surplus letters were added mainly in the 15th and 16th centuries. Printers often did this to fill more lines to earn more money. They now serve no useful purpose whatsoever. Surplus –e endings especially, undermine the use of -e as a marker of long vowels (home, alone). They undermine the whole short-long vowel system, as well as make make learning to read more difficult. They should at least be scrapped when their short vowels get regularised (done, some).

There is much else wrong with English spelling, in addition to the irregular spellings for /e/, /u/ and /ee/, unpredictable consonant doubling and surplus letters. But some irregularities would be harder to amend, because they have no clear best spelling (e.g. her, bird, turned, early). Quite a few create only writing difficulties, like ‘er, ir, ur’ or the many irregular spellings of vowels in unstressed endings, such as ‘pardon, certain, urban, truncheon’. They are much less detrimental to overall literacy progress. They also get efficiently corrected on the electronic devices which most adults now use for writing.

The five deliberately imposed irregularities (for /e/, /u/, /ee/, doubling, surplus -e) are the main reason why all English-speaking countries continue to have high levels of literacy failure despite repeatedly spending vast sums and much effort on ameliorating them. Reducing them would be a more certain and permanent way of speed up learning to read and write and reduce overall educational failure. But changing old habits invariably entails some discomfort. It tends to get embraced only when continuing to cling to them begins to seem as too costly.

Sadly, most English-speaking adults are not aware of the harm that their irregular spellings do. After completing their education, most people don’t give much thought to the ins and outs of English spelling, unless they become schoolteachers. Even parents of young children don’t lose much sleep over them. And so generation after generation of schoolchildren is obliged to keep wasting a great deal of time on needless and often stressful rote-learning which could be put to much better use instead.