- spelling1. Before the invention of printing in the 15c, English and other European languages lacked any regularity of spelling and usage was largely based on personal preference. Despite the development of rules, English remains notoriously beset by irregularities of spelling, and various proposals have been made over the years for reforms that would make spelling more straightforward in the interests of native speakers and foreign learners alike. These proposals have usually been based on phonetic principles, so that a reformed spelling conforms more to pronunciation, but questions of whose pronunciation forms the basis and which spellings are appropriate when more than one is available for a particular sound (e.g. ou as in count or ow as in cow) have not been resolved. Another objection is that a phonetic orthography would obscure word origins and connections, especially in groups of words in which the stress pattern changes, e.g. adore / adoration and nation / national. In any case, no machinery for reform exists, and it is unlikely that significant change can be achieved except by the weight of ordinary usage. (For a fuller discussion of this issue, see The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992, 973–6.)2. A major cause of confusion is the exceptional tolerance English has for variant spellings. This works in unpredictable ways, so that accessary / accessory and judgement / judgment are all permitted spellings whereas accomodation is not a permitted variant of accommodation nor millenium of millennium. In this book, preferred spellings are given when legitimate alternatives exist and correct spellings are identified when other occurring forms are not legitimate.3. There are three broad categories of spelling difficulty: (1) systematic problems that occur in words belonging to a certain type (e.g. the formation of nouns from verbs in -dge, such as acknowledgement and judgement) and in the inflection of words (e.g. the plural of nouns in -o such as potato and solo, and the -ed and -ing forms of verbs such as benefit and unravel), (2) individual difficulties attached to particular words (e.g. embarrass with two rs but harass with one, and millionaire with one n but questionnaire with two), including words adopted with little change from other languages that cause problems of inflection in English (e.g. shanghai and ski), and (3) words with similar spellings that are confused, e.g. complement / compliment, hoard / horde, and principal / principle.4. Guidance on the more important systematic features of spelling and inflection will be found in the following separate entries: abbreviations, co-, contractions, de-, dis-, doubling of final consonants with suffixes, -er and -est forms, -er and -or, -ey and -y in adjectives, -ful, hybrid formations, i before e, -ize, -ise in verbs, Latin plurals, -less, -like, -ly, mis-, non-, -o, palindrome, pre-, -re and -er, self-, semi-, -t and -ed, -um, un-, -xion.5. For differences in British and American spelling, see American English 3.6. The table below lists words in common use that cause particular spelling difficulties. Some of these are also given as separate entries.word / commentaccommodate, accommodation, etc. / two cs, two msacknowledgement / -dge- preferred formacquaint, acquaintance, etc. / acq-acquire / acq-acquit / acq-aggressive, aggression, etc. / two gs, two s'sapostasy / ends -asyappalling / two ps, two lsartefact / arte- preferred to arti-asphalt / not ash-bail / bale / see entrybaulk / see entrybeneficent / not -ficientbiased / preferred to biassedbillionaire / two ls, one nbreach / breech / see entrychangeable / -eablechord / cord / see entrycommemorate / two ms followed by one mcommittee / two ms, two tscomplement / compliment / see entryconnoisseur / two ns, two s'sconsensus / not concensuscooperate, cooperation, etc. / no hyphendesiccated / one s, two csdesperate / two esdiphthong / not dipthongdispatch / preferred to despatchdissect / two s'sdissipate / two s's, one pdraft / draught / see entryecstasy / ends -asyeighth / two hsembarrass, embarrassment, etc. / two rs, two s'senthral / one lexhilarate / two asfulfil / one final l; AmE also fulfillgauge / -au- not -ua-guard, guardian, etc. / -ua- not -au-harass, harassment, etc. / one r, two s'shoard / horde / see entryidiosyncrasy / ends -asyimpostor / ends -orinstall / two lsinstalment / one l; AmE installmentjudgement / -dge- preferred formliquefy / ends -efymanoeuvre / -oeu-; AmE maneuvermayonnaise / two ns, one smedieval / -e- preferred to -ae-mellifluous / two ls followed by flmemento / mem- not mom-millennium / two ls, two nsmillionaire / two ls, one nminuscule / not miniscule (see entry)mischievous / not -ieviousmisspell / two s'smoccasin / two cs, one snecessary / one c, two s'sniece / -ie- not -ei-occurrence / two cs, two rsPortuguese / u before and after gpractice / practise / see entryprincipal / principle / see entryquestionnaire / two nsrarefy / ends -efyrecommend / one c, two msrestaurateur / no nresuscitate / -s- followed by -sc-Romanian / Rom- not Rum-sacrilegious / -i- followed by -e-seize / -ei- not -ie-separate / two assiege / -ie- not -ei-stationary / stationery / see entrysupersede / not -cedethreshold / one htranssexual / two s's (preferred)twelfth / note the funwieldy / not -wieldlyveterinary / not vetinaryweird / -ei- not -ie-wholly / preferred to wholelywithhold / two hsyield / -ie- not -ei
Modern English usage. 2014.