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Guide to Spelling: Hooked on Phonics

Attaching Prefixes and Suffixes: Bits and Pieces

Prefixes are word parts you add to the beginning of a word to change its meaning; suffixes are word parts you add to the end of a word to change its meaning. Because many useful words are created by adding prefixes and suffixes to root words, you can save a lot of time wondering “Did I spell this sucker correctly?” by knowing how to add prefixes and suffixes. Let's take a look at the guidelines.

Attaching Prefixes: Front-End Collision

The rule here is simple: Don't add or omit a letter when you attach a prefix. Keep all the letters—every one of them. Here are some examples.

Prefix Word New Word
You Could Look It Up

Prefixes are word parts you add to the beginning of a word to change its meaning; suffixes are word parts you add to the end of a word to change its meaning.

Attaching Suffixes: Rear-End Collision

Keep all the letters when you add a suffix … unless the word ends in a y or a silent e. We'll talk about them later. The following chart and guidelines show you how to master the suffix situation.

Word Suffix New Word
  1. If the letter before the final y is a consonant, change the y to i and add the suffix. Study these examples.
    Word Suffix New Word
    • Hurry doesn't follow the rule: hurry + ing = hurrying. Here are some other exceptions: dryly, dryness, shyly, shyness, babyish, ladylike.
  2. If the letter before the final y is a vowel, do not change the y before attaching a suffix.
    Word Suffix New Word
    • Here are some exceptions: laid, paid, said, mislaid, underpaid, unsaid.
  3. If the suffix begins with a vowel, drop the silent e. Here are some examples.
    Word Suffix New Word
    • When the word ends in ce or ge, keep the e if the suffix begins with a or o: noticeable, manageable, advantageous. Here are some common exceptions: acreage, mileage, singeing, canoeing, hoeing.
  1. If the suffix begins with a consonant, keep the silent e. Here are some examples.
    Word Suffix New Word
    • Of course there are some exceptions: argument, duly, truly, wholly, and ninth.
  2. If the word ends in ie, drop the e and change the i to y. Check out these examples.
    Word Suffix New Word
  3. Add ly to change an adjective to an adverb. Here are some examples.
    Word Suffix New Word
    • If the adjective ends in ic, add al before ly.
    Word Al Suffix New Word
    • If the adjective ends in ble, change ble to bly.
    WordNew Word
  4. In a one-syllable word, double the final consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel.
    Word Suffix New Word
    • Don't double the final consonant if it comes after two vowels or another consonant. For example: failed, stooped, warmer, lasting.
  5. In a word of two or more syllables, double the final consonant only if it is in an accented syllable before a suffix beginning with a vowel. Here are some examples:
    Word Suffix New Word
    • Don't double the final consonant if it comes after two vowels or another consonant. For example: obtained, concealed, abducting, commendable.
  6. If a words ends in ic, insert a k after the c.
    Word Suffix New Word
  7. There's only one hint for adding able or ible: an adjective usually ends in -able if you can trace it back to a noun ending in -ation. Sensible is the exception.
    • But there are many words that don't fit this rule, so this isn't the rule to have tattooed on your palm.

Go for the Gusto

In the space provided, spell each misspelled word correctly.

1. dissorganized ___________
2. diservice ___________
3. disagreable ___________
4. lazyness ___________
5. acrage ___________
6. unatural ___________
7. suddeness ___________
8. costlyness ___________
9. mislayd ___________
10. truely ___________
1.disorganized 6. unnatural
2. disservice 7. suddenness
3. disagreeable 8. costliness
4. laziness 9. mislaid
5. acreage 10. truly
book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at and Barnes & Noble.

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