Effective Ways to Deal with Grammar in Writing Skills


English spelling is not easy to learn. There are some rules but often there are many exceptions to the rule. Some spell- ings and pronunciation appear to be illogical. It is therefore important that certain spellings are learnt. This article speaks on the effective ways to deal with grammar in writing skills.

Creating words

There are twenty-six letters in our alphabet. Five are vowels and the rest are consonants. The vowels are A, E, I, O, U. All words have to contain at least one vowel. (‘Y’ is considered to be a vowel in words like ‘rhythm’ and ‘psychology’). Consonants are all the other letters that are not vowels. So that a word can be pronounced easily, vowels are placed between consonants. No more than three con- sonants can be placed together. Below are two lists. The first contains words with three consecutive consonants and in the second are words with two consecutive consonants. The sets of consonants are separated by vowels:

  • Christian, chronic, school, scream, splash, through.
  • add, baggage, commander, flap, grab, occasion.

Forming plurals

To form a plural word an ‘s’ is usually added to a noun. But there are some exceptions.

Changing ‘y’ to ‘i’

If a noun ends in ‘y’, and there is a consonant before it, a  plural is formed by changing the ‘y’ into an ‘i’ and adding ‘-es’:

berry             –           berries

company       –           companies

lady               –           ladies

nappy            –           nappies

If the ‘y’ is preceded by another vowel, an ‘s’ only is added:

covey            –          coveys

monkey         –          monkeys

donkey          –          donkeys

Adding ‘es’ or ‘s’

If a noun ends in ‘o’ and a consonant precedes the ‘o’, ‘-es’ is added to form a plural:

hero              –          heroes

potato            –          potatoes

tomato           –          tomatoes

If there is a vowel before the ‘o’, an ‘s’ only is added:

patio              –          patios

studio            –          studios

zoo                –          zoos

It would be difficult to add an ‘s’ only to some words because it would be impossible to pronounce them. These are words that end in ‘ch’, ‘sh’, ‘s’, ‘x’ and ‘z’. In this case an ‘e’ has to be added before the ‘s’:

brush            –          brushes

buzz              –          buzzes

church           –          churches

duchess         –          duchesses

fox                –           foxes

Changing the form of a verb

When a verb ends in ‘y’ and it is necessary to change the  tense by adding other letters, the ‘y’ is changed  into an  ‘i’  and ‘es’ or ‘ed’ is added.

He will marry her tomorrow. He was married yesterday.

A dog likes to bury his bone. A dog always buries his bone.

Using ‘long’ vowels and ‘short’ vowels

There is often a silent ‘e’ at the end of the word if the vowel    is ‘long’:

bite, date, dupe, hope, late.

Each of these words consists of one syllable (one unit of sound). If another syllable is added, the ‘e’ is removed:

bite                –          biting

date               –          dating

hope              –          hoping

If there is no ‘e’ at the end of a word, the vowel is usually ‘short’:

bit, hop, let

If a second syllable is added to these words, the consonant is usually doubled:

bit                 –          bitten

hop               –          hopping

let                  –          letting

There are, of course, some exceptions. If the ‘e’ is preceded  by a ‘g’ or a ‘c’, the ‘e’ is usually retained. To remove it  would produce a ‘hard’ sound instead of a ‘soft’ one:

age                –          ageing marriage    –              marriageable service                –              serviceable

Adding ‘-ly’ to adjectives

When forming an adverb from an adjective, ‘ly’ (not ‘ley’) is added. If there is a ‘y’ at the end of the adjective, it must be changed to an ‘i’:

adjective                      adverb

beautiful                      beautifully

happy                          happily

quick                           quickly

slow                            slowly

If a word ends in ‘ic’, ‘-ally’ is added to it:

enthusiastic              –          enthusiastically

‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’

This rule seems to have been made to be broken. Some words keep to it but others break it. Here are some that follow the rule. All of them are pronounced ‘ee’ – as in ‘seed’.

no ‘C’ in front            after C

grief                            ceiling

niece                           deceive

piece                           receive

Exceptions to this rule are:

either, neighbours, vein, neither, seize, weird


Because some words do not follow any rules, there are many words in the English language that are frequently misspelled. These words have to be learnt. This article speaks on the effective ways to deal with grammar in writing skills. Following is a list of the most common:

absence abysmal acquaint acquire
accept across address advertisement
aggravate already alleluia ancient
annual appearance archaeology arrangement
auxiliary awkward because beginning
believe beautiful business character
carcass centre ceiling cemetery
cellar chameleon choose collar
committee computer condemn conscious
daily deceive definitely demonstrative
description desperate develop diarrhoea
difference dining disappear disappoint
discipline desperate dissatisfied doctor

doubt                  eerie                   eight                        eighth embarrass       empty      encyclopaedia          envelope exaggerate                exceed                           except                 exercise excitement  exhaust      exhibition                existence familiar     February  fierce       first foreigner                           forty                   fortunately               frightening fulfil        government             glamorous               gradually grammar  grief                           guard                  haemorrhage

haemorrhoids  harass                   height                      honorary

humorous           idea                    idle                          idol

immediately        independent        island                       jewellery journey       khaki       knowledge               label laboratory        labyrinth  lacquer                           language league  leisure                      liaison        lightning lonely       lovely      maintenance             massacre metaphor  miniature                           miscellaneous     mischievous miserably              misspell   museum   necessary neighbour                neither     niece        ninth

noticeable            occasion             occur                       occurred occurrence  omit         opportunity              opposite paid           paraffin    parallel                           particularly playwright                       possess      precede    precious preparation                procedure                preferred                           privilege

probably             profession          professor                 pronunciation pursue questionnaire  queue               receipt receive          recognise restaurant                           rhyme rhythm    said                          schedule    science scissors       secretary  separate   sergeant similar       simile       sincerely                           skilful spaghetti  smoky                     strength     subtle succeed         surprise   suppress  temporary thief        though     tragedy                           tried

truly                    unnecessary       until                         usage usual                vacuum    vehicle     vigorous vicious      wavy       Wednesday                           watch weird       woollen                   womb        yield

Looking at homophones

Some words that are pronounced in the same way are spelt differently and have different meanings. They are called homophones. Here are some examples:

air gaseous substance heir successor
aisle passage between seats isle land surrounded by
allowed permitted aloud audible
altar table at end of church alter change
bare naked bear an animal
bark sound dog makes barque sailing ship
  covering of tree trunk    
bow to bend head bough branch of tree
bread food made from flour bred past tense of breed
by at side of something buy purchase
    bye a run in cricket
      awarded by umpire
caught past tense of ‘catch’ court space enclosed by
cent monetary unit sent past tense of ‘send’
    scent perfume
check sudden stop cheque written order to bank
  to inspect   to pay money
council an administrative body counsel to give advice
current water or air moving in currant dried fruit
  a particular direction    
ewe female sheep yew a tree
    you second person
dear loved; expensive deer animal
faint become unconscious feint to make a
      diversionary move
herd a group of cattle heard past tense of ‘hear’
here in this place hear to be aware of sound
hole a cavity whole something complete
idle lazy idol object of worship
know to have knowledge no opposite of yes
passed past tense of ‘pass’ past time gone by
      to pass by
peace freedom from war piece a portion
peal a ring of bells peel rind of fruit
place particular area plaice a fish
poor opposite of rich pore tiny opening in skin
    pour tip liquid out of
quay landing place for ships key implement for locking
rain water from clouds reign monarch’s rule
    rein lead for controlling
sail sheet of material on sale noun from the verb
  a ship   ‘to sell’
  to travel on water    
sea expanse of salt water see to have sight of
seam place where two pieces seem to appear to be
  of material are joined    
sew stitches made by sow to plant seeds
  needle and thread so indicating extent of
sole fish soul spirit
  underneath of foot    
some a particular group sum the total
son male offspring sun source of light
stake wooden stave steak cooked meat
suite furniture sweet confectionary dessert
  piece of music    
tail end of animal tale story
threw hurled through pass into one side and
      out of the other
tire to become weary tyre rubber covering on a

to                in direction of                       too           as well or excessively

two          the number

vain            conceited                               vein          vessel in body for carrying blood

vane         weathercock

waist          middle part of body              waste       rubbish or

uncultivated land

weather      atmospheric conditions         whether introduces an


Checking more homophones

‘Their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’

‘Their’ is a possessive adjective. It is placed before the noun  to show ownership:

That is their land.

‘There’ is an adverb of place indicating where something is:

There is the house on stilts.

‘They’re’ is an abbreviation of ‘they are’. The ‘a’ has been replaced with an apostrophe:

They’re emigrating to Australia.

‘Were’, ‘where’ and ‘wear’

‘Were’ is the past tense of the verb ‘to be’: They were very happy to be in England.

‘Where’ is an adverb of place:

Where is your passport?

‘Wear’ is the present tense of the verb ‘to wear’:

The Chelsea Pensioners wear their uniform with pride.

‘Whose’ or ‘who’s’

‘Whose’ is a relative pronoun which is usually linked to a noun:

This is the boy whose father owns the Indian restaurant. ‘Who’s’ is an abbreviation of ‘who is’:

Who’s your favourite football player?

‘Your’ and ‘you’re’

‘Your’ is a possessive adjective and is followed by a noun. It indicates possession:

Your trainers are filthy.

‘You’re’ is an abbreviation for ‘you are’:

You’re not allowed to walk over that field.

Exploring homonyms

Some words have the same spelling but can have different meanings. This will usually depend on the context. The pronun- ciation can also change.
This article speaks on the effective ways to deal with grammar in writing skills. These words are called homonyms.

bow a tied ribbon or bow         to incline the head
(noun) part of a violin (verb)
calf the fleshy part of the calf          a young cow
  leg below the knee  
refuse rubbish refuse to show obstinacy
(noun)   (verb)  
row a line or an argument row to argue angrily
(noun)   (verb) to propel a boat
      using oars
train a mode of transport train to instruct or teach
(noun) long piece of material (verb)  
  attached to the hem    
  of a dress    


Checking your spelling

Use a dictionary frequently to check your spelling. Don’t guess the spelling of a word. Look it up. It is helpful to keep a list of words that you have misspelled so you can learn them.

Looking at words

A dictionary not only tells you how to spell a word. It also tells you what part of speech the word is. Sometimes the word appears more than once as it has different meanings and can be used as a different part of speech.
This article speaks on the effective ways to deal with grammar in writing skills. Look at the following examples:

land (noun) land (verb) (a) (b) (c) the solid part of the earth a country to go ashore or bring a plane down to the ground
fast (verb) (a) abstain from eating
fast (noun) (b) the act of going without food
fast (adjective) (c) firmly attached
fast (adverb) (d) quickly

Identifying letters

Letters after the word identify the part of speech:

n. = noun a. = adjective  adv. = adverb  v. = verb The verb is often followed by ‘t’ or ‘i’:

  • ‘v.t.’ stands for verb transitive. A transitive verb takes an object.

He wrote a letter. (The object of the verb ‘wrote’ is the noun, ‘letter’.)

  • ‘v.i.’ stands for verb intransitive. This means that the verb does not take an object.

She writes beautifully. (There is no object.)

Many verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively – as in the above examples. In this case the verb will  be followed by v.i & t.

Exploring derivations

The dictionary will often give the derivation of a word.  English is a rich language that owes much  to  other  languages. Some words like ‘rendezvous’ are  obviously French and have been kept in their  original  forms.  Others like ‘galley’ have been adapted from several languages. This article speaks on the effective ways to deal with grammar in writing skills.

If you have time, browse through a dictionary looking at the derivation of some of our words. It can be a fascinating and rewarding experience.


A thesaurus can also be very useful. It will help you to find an alternative word (synonym) for a word that you have used too much. Words are shown alphabetically and beside each will be a list of words that could replace the word you want to lose. Of course, not all the synonyms will be suitable. It will depend on the context.

Adding to your vocabulary

Using a thesaurus is an excellent way of adding to your vocabulary. It is useful to keep a list of words that you   have found so that you can use  them  again  and  in  this way increase your knowledge. Here is a list of synonyms that could be used instead of the overworked adjective ‘nice’:

agreeable, attractive, delicious, delightful, enjoyable, pleasant, pleasing

Roget’s Thesaurus

This is the most famous thesaurus; it has two main sections. The second part lists words alphabetically and identifies the parts of speech. After the words are numbers. These refer to the first part where the synonyms for the different parts of speech will be given.

Other thesauri

There are many smaller versions including pocket ones and these can be found in most bookshops.


  • Double the consonant after a short vowel sound when adding more letters.
  • Learn commonly misspelt words.
  • ◆       Use a dictionary to check spelling and find the meaning of words.
  • Use a thesaurus to widen your vocabulary.


  1. What is the plural form of the following words?

lady, company, monkey, tomato, boa, princess, dance

  • Add ‘-ing’ to the following words:

dine, live, hit, hop, skip, write, mate, mine

  • Form adverbs from the following adjectives:

happy, joyful, kind, angry, wonderful, clear, quick, careless

  • Correct the following sentences:
  • I no you are their.
  • I can sea to ships on the see.
  • Did you now there house is too be sold?
  • Hear is you’re packed lunch.
  • Their is a whole in your jacket.
  • You can go to London two.
  • The teacher kept in the hole class.
  • The violinist took a bough.
  • Because of the wind, the bow of the tree broke.
  • She past threw the crowd.
  • He through the ball.
  • Know milk was left today.
  • In the following passage fill in the missing words:

. . . were no ships on the . . . that morning. She could . . . the white foam as the waves crashed on the shore. She would . . . when . . . car arrived as it would drive . . . the gate. Idly, she . . . a stone into the . . . . The . . . of the  trees on the cliff . . . swaying in the wind. It was . . . cold

. . . sit still. Kicking off her sandals, she noticed she had

. . . holes in her socks. She had intended to . . . her new ones. Her hair ribbon had also come undone and crossly she tied it in a . . . and stood up, holding her shoes. . . .

she could the car.

  • What do the following letters stand for?

n.     v.t.     v.i.     a.     adv.

  • Find synonyms for the underlined words in the following passage:

It was a nice day so the children decided to have a picnic. They walked along the cliff path and climbed down to the beach. The waves crashed on the shore as they ate their pleasant lunch. This article speaks on the effective ways to deal with grammar in writing skills.

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