How to improve your spelling

Spelling words with difficult endings

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Spelling 'word endings' can be difficult. The following information will explain the three most common word ending mistakes and show you to avoid them. The three most common word ending mistakes are:

Words ending with er/or/ar

Use 'er' when you are describing a person that is doing something.

For example:

writer (a person who is writing)

drinker (a person who is drinking)

dancer (a person who is dancing)

Use 'or' when the base word ends in 'it', 'ct' or 'ate'.

For example:

educate = educator

solicit = solicitor

Use 'ar' when the base word ends in 'l'.

For example:




The rules for using er/or/ar are simply guidelines and there are some exceptions to these rules. If you are really stuck, it is helpful to remember that there are many more words ending in 'er' than 'or' or 'ar', so if you have to guess, choose 'er'!


The easiest way to remember this is; if the base word does not change, use 'able' and if the base word does change use 'ible'.

For example:

read + able = readable

comfort + able = comfortable

terror + ible = terrible

permission + ible = permissible


A rule to help you remember whether to use 'ical' 'icle' or 'acle' is that describing words (adjectives) end in ical, and naming words (nouns) will be 'acle' or 'icle'.

For example:

vertical (a describing word)

critical (a describing word)

barnacle (a naming word)

receptacle (a naming word)

particle (a naming word)

popsicle (a naming word)

popsicle (a naming word)

Please note that there are exceptions to these rules. If you come across any of these exceptions, take note of them for future reference.

Activity: Practicing spelling difficult word endings - 10 minutes

1. Decide which of the following words are spelt correctly.

2. For each of the incorrect words, re-write the word, correctly, in your notes.

4. Compare your answers to the answers shown below.

5. If you got any of these answers wrong you may wish to review the spelling rules explained above.

How did you do?

When you have finished this activity, you can check your answers here.

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