The Art Of Writing & Speaking The English Language Word-Study: Chapter III by@sherwincody
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The Art Of Writing & Speaking The English Language Word-Study: Chapter III

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There are a few rules and applications of the principles of word-formation which may be found fully treated in the chapter on “Orthography” at the beginning of the dictionary, but which we present here very briefly, together with a summary of principles already discussed.

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The Art Of Writing & Speaking The English Language Word-Study, by Sherwin Cody is part of HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here.


There are a few rules and applications of the principles of word-formation which may be found fully treated in the chapter on “Orthography” at the beginning of the dictionary, but which we present here very briefly, together with a summary of principles already discussed.

Rule 1. F, l, and s at the end of a monosyllable after a single vowel are commonly doubled. The exceptions are the cases in which s forms the plural or possessive case of a noun, or third person singular of the verb, and the following words: clef, if, of, pal, sol, as, gas, has, was, yes, gris, his, is, thus, us. L is not doubled at the end of words of more than one syllable, as parallel, willful, etc.

Rule 2. No other consonants thus situated are doubled. Exceptions: ebb, add, odd, egg, inn, bunn, err, burr, purr, butt, fizz, fuzz, buzz, and a few very uncommon words, for which see the chapter in the dictionary above referred to.

Rule 3. A consonant standing at the end of a word immediately after a diphthong or double vowel is never doubled. The word guess is only an apparent exception, since u does not form a combination with e but merely makes the g hard.

Rule 4. Monosyllables ending in the sound of ic represented by c usually take k after the c, as in back, knock, etc. Exceptions: talc, zinc, roc, arc, and a few very uncommon words. Words of more than one syllable ending in ic or iac do not take k after the c (except derrick), as for example elegiac, cubic, music, etc. If the c is preceded by any other vowel than i or ia, k is added to the c, as in barrack, hammock, wedlock. Exceptions: almanac, havoc, and a very few uncommon words.

Rule 5. To preserve the hard sound of c when a syllable is added which begins with e, i, or y, k is placed after final c, as in trafficking, zincky, colicky.

Rule 6. X and h are never doubled, v and j seldom. G with the soft sound cannot be doubled, because then the first g would be made hard. Example: mag′ic. Q always appears with u following it, and here u has the value of the consonant w and in no way combines or is counted with the vowel which may follow it. For instance squatting is written as if squat contained but one vowel.

Rule 7. In simple derivatives a single final consonant following a single vowel in a syllable that receives an accent is doubled when another syllable beginning with a vowel is added.

Rule 8. When accent comes on a syllable standing next to the last, it has a tendency to lengthen the vowel; but on syllables farther from the end, the tendency is to shorten the vowel without doubling the consonant. For example, na′tion (a long), but na′tional (a short); gram′mar, but grammat′ical.

Rule 9. Silent e at the end of a word is usually dropped when a syllable beginning with a vowel is added. The chief exceptions are words in which the silent e is retained to preserve the soft sound of c or g.

Rule 10. Plurals are regularly formed by adding s; but if the word end in a sibilant sound (sh, zh, z, s, j, ch, x), the plural is formed by adding es, which is pronounced as a separate syllable. If the word end{s} in a sibilant sound followed by silent e, that e unites with the s to form a separate syllable. Examples: seas, cans; boxes, churches, brushes; changes, services.

Rule 11. Final y is regularly changed to i when a syllable is added. In plurals it is changed to ies, except when preceded by a vowel, when a simple s is added without change of the y. Examples: clumsy, clumsily; city, cities; chimney, chimneys. We have colloquies because u after q has the value of the consonant w. There are a few exceptions to the above rule. When two i's would come together, the y is not changed, as in carrying.

Rule 12. Words ending, in a double consonant commonly retain the double consonant in derivatives. The chief exception is all, which drops one l, as in almighty, already, although, etc. According to English usage other words ending in double l drop one l in derivatives, and we have skilful (for skillful), wilful (for willful), etc., but Webster does not approve this custom. Ful is an affix, not the word full in a compound.


1. Though in the case of simple words ending in a double consonant the derivatives usually retain the double consonant, pontific and pontifical (from pontiff) are exceptions, and when three letters of the same kind would come together, one is usually dropped, as in agreed (agree plus ed), illy (ill plus ly), belless, etc. We may write bell-less, etc., however, in the case of words in which three l's come together, separating the syllables by a hyphen.

2. To prevent two i's coming together, we change i to y in dying, tying, vying, etc., from die, tie, and vie.

3. Derivatives from adjectives ending in y do not change y to i, and we have shyly, shyness, slyly, etc., though drier and driest from dry are used. The y is not changed before ship, as in secretaryship, ladyship, etc., nor in babyhood and ladykin.

4. We have already seen that y is not changed in derivatives when it is preceded by another vowel, as in the case of joyful, etc.; but we find exceptions to this principle in daily, laid, paid, said, saith, slain, and staid; and many write gaily and gaiety, though Webster prefers gayly and gayety.

5. Nouns of one syllable ending in o usually take a silent e also, as toe, doe, shoe, etc, but other parts of speech do not take the e, as do, to, so, no, and the like, and nouns of more than one syllable, as potato, tomato, etc., omit the e. Monosyllables ending in oe usually retain the silent e in derivatives, and we have shoeing, toeing, etc. The commoner English nouns ending in o also have the peculiarity of forming the plural by adding es instead of s, and we have potatoes, tomatoes, heroes, echoes, cargoes, embargoes, mottoes; but nouns a trifle more foreign form their plurals regularly, as solos, zeros, pianos, etc. When a vowel precedes the o, the plural is always formed regularly. The third person singular of the verb woo is wooes, of do does, of go goes, etc., in analogy with the plurals of the nouns ending in o.

6. The following are exceptions to the rule that silent e is retained in derivatives when the added syllable begins with a consonant: judgment, acknowledgment, lodgment, wholly, abridgment, wisdom, etc.

7. Some nouns ending in f or fe change those terminations to ve in the plural, as beef——beeves, leaf——leaves, knife——knives, loaf——loaves, life——lives, wife——wives, thief——thieves, wolf——wolves, self——selves, shelf——shelves, calf——calves, half——halves, elf——elves, sheaf——sheaves. We have chief——chiefs and handkerchief——handkerchiefs, however, and the same is true of all nouns ending in f or fe except those given above.

8. A few nouns form their plurals by changing a single vowel, as man——men, woman——women, goose——geese, foot——feet, tooth——teeth, etc. Compounds follow the rule of the simple form, but the plural of talisman is talismans, of German is Germans, of musselman is musselmans, because these are not compounds of men.

9. A few plurals are formed by adding en, as brother——brethren, child——children, ox——oxen.

10. Brother, pea, die, and penny have each two plurals, which differ in meaning. Brothers refers to male children of the same parents, brethren to members of a religious body or the like; peas is used when a definite number is mentioned, pease when bulk is referred to; dies are instruments used for stamping, etc., dice cubical blocks used in games of chance; pennies refer to a given number of coins, pence to an amount reckoned by the coins. Acquaintance is sometimes used in the plural for acquaintances with no difference of meaning.

11. A few words are the same in the plural as in the singular, as sheep, deer, trout, etc.

12. Some words derived from foreign languages retain the plurals of those languages. For example: datum——data criterion——criteria genus——genera larva——larvæ‎ crisis——crises matrix——matrices focus——foci monsieur——messieurs

13. A few allow either a regular plural or the plural retained from the foreign language: formula——formulæ or formulas beau——beaux or beaus index——indices or indexes stratum——strata or stratums bandit——banditti or bandits cherub——cherubim or cherubs seraph——seraphim or seraphs

14. In very loose compounds in which a noun is followed by an adjective or the like, the noun commonly takes the plural ending, as in courts-martial, sons-in-law, cousins-german. When the adjective is more closely joined, the plural ending must be placed at the end of the entire word. Thus we have cupfuls, handfuls, etc.

Different Spellings for the same Sound.

Perhaps the greatest difficulty in spelling English words arises from the fact that words and syllables pronounced alike are often spelled differently, and there is no rule to guide us in distinguishing. In order to fix their spelling, in mind we should know what classes of words are doubtful, and when we come to them constantly refer to the dictionary. To try to master these except in the connections in which we wish to use them the writer believes to be worse than folly. By studying such words in pairs, confusion is very likely to be fixed forever in the mind. Most spelling-books commit this error, and so are responsible for a considerable amount of bad spelling, which their method has actually introduced and instilled into the child's mind.

Persons who read much are not likely to make these errors, since they remember words by the form as it appeals to the eye, not by the sound in which there is no distinction. The study of such words should therefore be conducted chiefly while writing or reading, not orally.

While we must memorize, one at a time as we come to them in reading or writing, the words or syllables in which the same sound is represented by different spellings, still we should know clearly what classes of words to be on the lookout for. We will now consider some of the classes of words in which a single syllable may be spelled in various ways.

Vowel Substitutions in Simple Words.

ea for ĕ short or e obscure before r.

already bread breakfast breast breadth death earth dead deaf dread‎ early earn earnest earth feather head health heaven heavy‎ heard lead learn leather meadow measure pearl pleasant read‎ search sergeant spread steady thread threaten tread wealth weather

ee for ē long.

agree beef breed cheek cheese creek creep cheer deer deed deep feed‎ feel feet fleece green heel heed indeed keep keel keen kneel meek‎ need needle peel peep queer screen seed seen sheet sheep sleep sleeve‎ sneeze squeeze street speech steeple steet sweep sleet teeth weep weed week

ea for ē long.

appear bead beach bean beast beat beneath breathe cease cheap cheat clean clear congeal cream crease creature dear deal dream defeat‎ each ear eager easy east eaves feast fear feat grease heap hear heat increase knead lead leaf leak lean least leave‎ meat meal mean neat near peas (pease) peal peace peach please preach reach read reap rear reason repeat scream‎ seam seat season seal speak steam streak stream tea team tear tease teach veal weave weak wheat wreath (wreathe) year yeast

ai for ā long.

afraid aid braid brain complain daily dairy daisy drain dainty explain fail fain‎ gain gait gaiter grain hail jail laid maid mail maim nail paid‎ pail paint plain prairie praise quail rail rain raise raisin remain sail‎ saint snail sprain stain straight strain tail train vain waist wait waive

ai for i or e obscure.

bargain captain certain curtain mountain

oa for ō long.

board boat cloak coax coal coast coarse‎ float foam goat gloam groan hoarse load‎ loan loaf oak oar oats roast road‎ roam shoal soap soar throat toad toast

ie for ē long.

believe chief‎ fierce grief‎ niece priest‎ piece thief

ei for ē long.

neither receipt receive

In sieve, ie has the sound of i short.

In eight, skein, neighbor, rein, reign, sleigh, vein, veil, weigh, and weight, ei has the sound of a long.

In height, sleight, and a few other words ei has the sound of i long.

In great, break, and steak ea has the sound of a long; in heart and hearth it has the sound of a Italian, and in tear and bear it has the sound of a as in care.

Silent Consonants etc.

although answer bouquet bridge calf calm catch castle caught chalk climb ditch dumb edge folks comb daughter debt depot forehead gnaw hatchet hedge hiccough‎ hitch honest honor hustle island itch judge judgment knack knead kneel knew knife knit knuckle knock knot know knowledge lamb latch laugh limb listen‎ match might muscle naughty night notch numb often palm pitcher pitch pledge ridge right rough scene scratch should sigh sketch snatch soften stitch switch‎ sword talk though through thought thumb tough twitch thigh walk watch whole witch would write written wrapper wring wrong wrung wrote wrestle yacht

Unusual Spellings.

The following words have irregularities peculiar to themselves.

ache any air apron among again aunt against biscuit build busy business bureau because carriage coffee collar color country couple cousin cover does dose‎ done double diamond every especially February flourish flown fourteen forty fruit gauge glue gluey guide goes handkerchief honey heifer impatient iron juice liar lion‎ liquor marriage mayor many melon minute money necessary ninety ninth nothing nuisance obey ocean once onion only other owe owner patient people pigeon prayer‎ pray prepare rogue scheme scholar screw shoe shoulder soldier stomach sugar succeed precede proceed procedure suspicion they tongue touch trouble wagon were where wholly

C with the sound of s.

In the following words the sound of s is represented by c followed by a vowel that makes this letter soft:

city face ice juice lace necessary nuisance once pencil police policy pace race rice space trace twice trice thrice nice price slice‎ lice spice circus citron circumstance centre cent cellar certain circle concert concern cell dunce decide December dance disgrace exercise excellent except force‎ fleece fierce furnace fence grocer grace icicle instance innocent indecent decent introduce juice justice lettuce medicine mercy niece ounce officer patience peace‎ piece place principal principle parcel produce prejudice trace voice receipt recite cite sauce saucer sentence scarcely since silence service crevice novice

Words ending in cal and cle.

Words in cal are nearly all derived from other words ending in ic, as classical, cubical, clerical, etc. Words ending in cle are (as far as English is concerned) original words, as cuticle, miracle, manacle, etc. When in doubt, ask the question if, on dropping the al or le, a complete word ending in ic would be left. If such a word is left, the ending is al, if not, it is probably le.

Er and re.

Webster spells theater, center, meter, etc., with the termination er, but most English writers prefer re. Meter is more used to denote a device for measuring (as a “gas meter”), meter as the French unit of length (in the “Metric system”). In words like acre even Webster retains re because er would make the c (or g) soft.

Words ending in er, ar, or.

First, let it be said that in most words these three syllables (er, ar, or), are pronounced very nearly if not exactly alike (except a few legal terms in or, like mort′gageor), and we should not try to give an essentially different sound to ar or or* from that we give to er. The ending er is the regular one, and those words ending in ar or or are very few in number. They constitute the exceptions.

*While making no especial difference in the vocalization of these syllables, careful speakers dwell on them a trifle longer than they do on er.

Common words ending in ar with the sound of er:

liar collar beggar burglar solar cedar jugular scholar‎ calendar secular dollar grammar tabular poplar pillar sugar‎ jocular globular mortar lunar vulgar popular insular Templar‎ ocular muscular nectar similar tubular altar (for worship) singular

In some words we have the same syllable with the same sound in the next to the last syllable, as in solitary, preliminary, ordinary, temporary etc. The syllable ard with the sound of erd is also found, as in standard, wizard, mustard, mallard, etc.

Common words ending in or with the sound of er:

honor valor mayor sculptor prior ardor clamor labor tutor warrior razor flavor auditor juror favor tumor editor vigor actor author conductor savior visitor elevator parlor ancestor captor creditor victor‎ error proprietor arbor chancellor debtor doctor instructor successor rigor senator suitor traitor donor inventor odor conqueror senior tenor tremor bachelor junior oppressor possessor liquor surveyor vapor governor languor professor‎ spectator competitor candor harbor meteor orator rumor splendor elector executor factor generator impostor innovator investor legislator narrator navigator numerator operator originator perpetrator personator predecessor protector prosecutor projector reflector regulator‎ sailor senator separator solicitor supervisor survivor tormentor testator transgressor translator divisor director dictator denominator creator counsellor councillor administrator aggressor agitator arbitrator assessor benefactor collector compositor conspirator constructor contributor tailor

The o and a in such words as the above are retained in the English spelling because they were found in the Latin roots from which the words were derived. Some, though not all, of the above words in or are usually spelled in England with our, as splendour, saviour, etc., and many books printed in this country for circulation in England retain this spelling. See {the end of the a}p{pendix}ִ.

Words ending in able and ible.

Another class of words in which we are often confused is those which end in able or ible. The great majority end in able, but a few derived from Latin words in ibilis retain the i. A brief list of common words ending in ible is subjoined:

compatible compressible convertible forcible enforcible gullible horrible sensible terrible possible visible‎ perceptible susceptible audible credible combustible eligible intelligible irascible inexhaustible reversible‎ plausible permissible accessible digestible responsible admissible fallible flexible incorrigible irresistible‎ ostensible tangible contemptible divisible discernible corruptible edible legible indelible indigestible

Of course when a soft g precedes the doubtful letter, as in legible, we are always certain that we should write i, not a. All words formed from plain English words add able. Those familiar with Latin will have little difficulty in recognizing the i as an essential part of the root.

Words ending in ent and ant, and ence and ance.

Another class of words concerning which we must also feel doubt is that terminating in ence and ance, or ant and ent. All these words are from the Latin, and the difference in termination is usually due to whether they come from verbs of the first conjugation or of other conjugations. As there is no means of distinguishing, we must continually refer to the dictionary till we have learned each one. We present a brief list:

ent confident belligerent independent transcendent competent insistent consistent convalescent correspondent corpulent dependent despondent expedient impertinent inclement insolvent intermittent prevalent superintendent recipient proficient efficient eminent excellent fraudulent latent opulent convenient corpulent descendent different‎ ant abundant accountant arrogant assailant assistant attendant clairvoyant combatant recreant consonant conversant defendant descendent discordant elegant exorbitant important incessant irrelevant luxuriant malignant petulant pleasant poignant reluctant stagnant triumphant vagrant warrant attendant repentant

A few of these words may have either termination according to the meaning, as confident (adj.) and confidant (noun). Usually the noun ends in ant, the adjective in ent. Some words ending in ant are used both as noun and as adjective, as attendant. The abstract nouns in ence or ance correspond to the adjectives. But there are several of which the adjective form does not appear in the above list:

ence abstinence existence innocence diffidence diligence essence indigence negligence obedience occurrence reverence vehemence residence violence reminiscence intelligence presence prominence prudence reference reverence transference turbulence consequence indolence patience beneficence preference‎ ance annoyance cognizance vengeance compliance conveyance ignorance grievance fragrance pittance alliance defiance acquaintance deliverance appearance accordance countenance sustenance remittance connivance resistance nuisance utterance variance vigilance maintenance forbearance temperance repentance

Vowels e and i before ous.

The vowels e and i sometimes have the value of the consonant y, as e in righteous. There is also no clear distinction in sound between eous and ions. The following lists are composed chiefly of words in which the e or the i has its usual value.* In which words does e or i have the consonant value of y?

eons aqueous gaseous hideous courteous instantaneous miscellaneous simultaneous spontaneous righteous gorgeous nauseous outrageous‎ ious. copious dubious impious delirious impervious amphibious ceremonious deleterious supercilious punctilious religious sacrilegious

Notice that all the accented vowels except i in antepenultimate syllables are long before this termination.

Words ending in ize, ise, and yse.

In English we have a few verbs ending in ise, though ize is the regular ending of most verbs of this class, at least according to the American usage. In England ise is often substituted for ize. The following words derived through the French must always be written with the termination ise:

advertise catechise compromise devise divertise exercise misprise supervise advise chastise‎ criticise disfranchise emprise exorcise premise surmise affranchise circumcise demise disguise‎ enfranchise franchise reprise surprise apprise comprise despise disenfranchise enterprise manumise

A few words end in yse (yze): analyse, paralyse. They are all words from the Greek.

Words ending in cious, sion, tion, etc.

The common termination is tious, but there are a few words ending in cious, among them the following:

avaricious pernicious tenacious‎ capricious suspicious precocious‎ judicious vicious sagacious‎ malicious conscious

The endings tion and sion are both common; sion usually being the termination of words originally ending in d, de, ge, mit, rt, se, and so, as extend——extension.

Cion and cian are found only in a few words, such as suspicion, physician. Also, while tial is most common by far, we have cial, as in special, official, etc.

Special words with c sounded like s.

We have already given a list of simple words in which c is used for s, but the following may be singled out because they are troublesome:

acquiesce paucity reticence vacillate coincidence‎ publicity license tenacity crescent prejudice‎ scenery condescend effervesce proboscis scintillate‎ oscillate rescind transcend

Words with obscure Vowels.

The following words are troublesome because some vowel, usually in the next to the last syllable unaccented, is so obscured that the pronunciation does not give us a key to it:

a almanac apathy avarice cataract citadel dilatory malady ornament palatable propagate salary separate extravagant‎ e celebrate desecrate supplement liquefy petroleum rarefy skeleton telescope tragedy gayety lineal renegade secretary deprecate execrate implement maleable promenade recreate stupefy tenement vegetate academy remedy revenue serenade‎ i expiate privilege rarity stupidity verify epitaph retinue nutriment vestige medicine impediment prodigy serenity terrify edifice orifice sacrilege specimen

Words ending in cy and sy.

Cy is the common termination, but some words are troublesome because they terminate in sy. Prophecy is the noun, prophesy the verb, distinguished in pronunciation by the fact that the final y in the verb is long, in the noun it is short. The following are a few words in sy which deserve notice:

controversy embassy hypocrisy fantasy ecstasy heresy courtesy

The above lists are for reference and for review. No one, in school or out, should attempt to memorize these words offhand. The only rational way to learn them is by reference to the dictionary when one has occasion to write them, and to observe them in reading. These two habits, the use of the dictionary and observing the formation of words in reading, will prove more effective in the mastery of words of this character than three times the work applied in any other way. The usual result of the effort to memorize in lists is confusion so instilled that it can never be eradicated.

By way of review it is often well to look over such lists as those above, and common words which one is likely to use and which one feels one ought to have mastered, may be checked with a pencil, and the attention concentrated upon them for a few minutes. It will be well also to compare such words as stupefy and stupidity, rarity and rarefy.


The infatuation of modern spelling-book makers has introduced the present generation to a serious difficulty in spelling which was not accounted great in olden times. The pupil now has forced upon him a large number of groups of words pronounced alike but spelled differently.

The peculiar trouble with these words is due to the confusion between the two forms, and to increase this the writers of spelling-books have insisted on placing the two forms side by side in black type or italic so that the pupil may forever see those two forms dancing together before his eyes whenever he has occasion to use one of them. The attempt is made to distinguish them by definitions or use in sentences; but as the mind is not governed by logical distinctions so much as by association, the pupil is taught to associate each word with the word which may cause him trouble, not especially with the meaning to which the word ought to be so wedded that there can be no doubt or separation.

These words should no doubt receive careful attention; but the association of one with the other should never be suggested to the pupil: it is time enough to distinguish the two when the pupil has actually confused them. The effort should always be made to fix in the pupil's mind from the beginning an association of each word with that which will be a safe key at all times. Thus hear may be associated (should always be associated) with ear, their (theyr) with they, here and there with each other and with where, etc. It will also be found that in most cases one word is more familiar than the other, as for instances been and bin. We learn been and never would think of confusing it with bin were we not actually taught to do so. In such cases it is best to see that the common word is quite familiar; then the less common word may be introduced, and nine chances out of ten the pupil will not dream of confusion. In a few cases in which both words are not very often used, and are equally common or uncommon, as for instance mantle and mantel, distinction may prove useful as a method of teaching, but generally it will be found best to drill upon one of the words, finding some helpful association for it, until it is thoroughly mastered; then the pupil will know that the other word is spelled in the other way, and think no more about it.

The following quotations contain words which need special drill. This is best secured by writing ten or twenty sentences containing each word, an effort being made to use the word in as many different ways and connections as possible. Thus we may make sentences containing there, as follows:

There, where his kind and gentle face looks down upon me,
I used to stand and gaze upon the marble form of Lincoln.

Here and there we found a good picture.

There was an awful crowd.

I stopped there a few moments.

Etc., etc.


Heaven's gate is shut to him who comes alone. ——Whittier.

Many a tale of former day
Shall wing the laughing hours away. ——Byron.

Fair hands the broken grain shall sift,
And knead its meal of gold. ——Whittier.

They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak. ——Lowell.

If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And he saith unto them, Take heed what ye hear. ——Bible.

Hark! I hear music on the zephyr's wing. ——Shelley.

Row, brothers, row, the stream runs fast, The rapids are near, and the daylight's past! ——Moore.

Each boatman bending to his oar,
With measured sweep the burden bore. ——Scott.

The visions of my youth are past, Too bright, too beautiful to last. ——Bryant.

(We seldom err in the use of to and two; but in how many different ways may too properly be used?)

With kind words and kinder looks he bade me go my way. ——Whittier. (The a in bade is short.)

Then, as to greet the sunbeam's birth,
Rises the choral hymn of earth. ——Mrs. Hemans.

Come thou with me to the vineyards nigh,
And we'll pluck the grapes of the richest dye. ——Mrs. Hemans.

If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot. ——John A. Dix.

In all the trade of war, no feat
Is nobler than a brave retreat. ——Samuel Butler.

His form was bent, and his gait was slow,
His long thin hair was white as snow. ——George Arnold.

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,
Down which she so often has tripped with her pail.

Like Aesop's fox when he had lost his tail, would have all his fellow-foxes cut off theirs. ——Robert Burton.

He that is thy friend indeed,
He will help thee in thy need. ——Shakspere.

Flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip, and the pale primrose. ——Milton.

What, keep a week away? Seven days and seven nights?
Eight score and eight hours? ——Shakspere.

Spring and Autumn here
Danc'd hand in hand. ——Milton.

Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go. ——Burns.

Th' allotted hour of daily sport is o'er,
And Learning beckons from her temple's door? ——Byron.

To know, to esteem, to love, and then to part, Makes up life's tale to many a feeling heart. ——Coleridge.

Bad men excuse their faults, good men will leave them.
                                                  ——Ben Jonson.
He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again. ——Shakspere.

There will little learning die then, that day thou art hanged. ——Shakspere.

Be merry all, be merry all,
With holly dress the festive hall. ——W. R. Spencer.

When youth and pleasure meet,
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet. ——Byron.

Quotations containing words in the following list may be found in “Wheeler's Graded Studies in Great Authors: A Complete Speller,” from which the preceding quotations were taken. Use these words in sentences, and if you are not sure of them, look them up in the dictionary, giving especial attention to quotations containing them.

ale dear rode ore blew awl thyme new ate lief cell dew sell won praise high prays hie be inn ail road rowed by‎ great aught foul mean seam moan knot rap bee wrap not loan told cite hair seed night knit made peace in waist bread climb‎ rice male none plane pore fete poll sweet throe borne root been load feign forte vein kill rime shown wrung hew ode ere wrote‎ isle throne vane seize sore slight freeze knave fane reek Rome rye style flea faint peak throw bourn route soar sleight frieze nave reck‎ our stair capitol alter pearl might kiln rhyme shone rung hue pier strait wreck sear Hugh lyre whorl surge purl altar cannon ascent principle

blue tier so all two time knew ate leaf one due sew tear buy lone hare night clime sight tolled site knights maid cede beech waste bred piece sum plum e'er cent son weight tier rein weigh heart wood paws‎ heard sent sun some air tares rain way wait threw fir hart pause would pear fair mane lead meat rest scent bough reign scene sail bier pray right toe yew sale prey rite rough tow steal done bare their creek‎ wares urn plait arc bury peal doe grown flue know sea lie mete lynx bow stare belle read grate ark ought slay thrown vain bin lode fain fort fowl mien write mown sole drafts fore bass beat seem steel dun‎ sere wreak roam wry flee feint pique mite seer idle pistol flower holy serf borough capital canvas indict martial kernel carat bridle lesson council collar levy accept affect deference emigrant prophesy sculptor plaintive populous ingenious lineament desert extent pillow stile‎ mantle weather barren current miner cellar mettle pendent advice illusion assay felicity genius profit statute poplar precede lightning patience devise disease insight dissent decease extant dessert ingenuous liniment stature sculpture fissure facility essay allusion advise pendant metal seller minor complement

through fur fare main pare beech meet wrest led bow seen earn plate wear rote peel you berry flew know dough groan links see lye bell‎ soul draught four base beet heel but steaks coarse choir cord chaste boar butt stake waive choose stayed cast maze ween hour birth horde aisle core‎ bear there creak bore ball wave chews staid caste maize heel bawl course quire chord chased tide sword mail nun plain pour fate wean hoard berth‎ descent incite pillar device patients lightening proceed plaintiff prophet immigrant fisher difference presents effect except levee choler counsel lessen bridal carrot colonel marshal indite assent sleigh‎ currant baron wether mantel principal burrow canon surf wholly serge whirl liar idyl flour pistil idol rise rude team corps peer straight teem reed beau compliment

The preceding list contains several pairs of words often confused with each other though they are not pronounced exactly alike.

Of course when confusion actually exists in a person's mind, a drill on distinctions is valuable. But in very many cases no confusion exists, and in such cases it is worse than unfortunate to introduce it to the mind. In any case it is by far the better way to drill upon each word separately, using it in sentences in as many different ways as possible; and the more familiar of two words pronounced alike or nearly alike should be taken up first. When that is fixed, passing attention may be given to the less familiar; but it is a great error to give as much attention to the word that will be little used as to the word which will be used often. In the case of a few words such as principle and principal, counsel and council, confusion is inevitable, and the method of distinction and contrast must be used; but even in cases like this, the method of studying each word exhaustively by itself will undoubtedly yield good results.

Division of Words into Syllables.

In writing it is often necessary to break words at the ends of lines. This can properly be done only between syllables, and this is the usage in the United States for the most part, though in Great Britain words are usually divided so as to show their etymological derivation.

The following rules will show the general usage in this country:

1. All common English prefixes and suffixes are kept undivided, even if the pronunciation would seem to require division. Thus, tion, and similar endings, ble, cions, etc., are never divided. The termination ed may be carried over to the next line even when it is not pronounced, as in scorn-ed, but this is objectionable and should be avoided when possible. When a Latin or other foreign prefix appears in English as an essential part of the root of the word, and the pronunciation requires a different division from that which would separate the original parts, the word is divided as pronounced, as pref′ace (because we pronounce the e short), prog′-ress, etc. (The English divide thus: pre-face, pro-gress.)

2. Otherwise, words are divided as pronounced, and the exact division may be found in the dictionary. When a vowel is followed by a single consonant and is short, the consonant stands with the syllable which precedes it, especially if accented. Examples: gram-mat′-ic-al, math-e-mat′-ics. (The people of Great Britain write these words gram-ma-ti-cal, ma-the-ma-ti¬c{s}ªł, etc.)

3. Combinations of consonants forming digraphs are never divided. Examples: ng, th, ph.

4. Double consonants are divided. Examples: Run-ning, drop-ped (if absolutely necessary to divide this word), sum-mer.

5. Two or more consonants, unless they are so united as to form digraphs or fixed groups, are usually divided according to pronunciation. Examples: pen-sive, sin-gle (here the n has the ng nasal sound, and the g is connected with the l), doc-tor, con-ster-nation, ex-am-ple, sub-stan-tive.

6. A vowel sounded long should as a rule close the syllable, except at the end of a word. Examples: na′-tion (we must also write na′-tion-al, because tion cannot be divided), di-men′-sion, deter′min-ate, con-no-ta′-tion.

Miscellaneous examples: ex-haust′-ive, pre-par′a-tive, sen-si-bil′-i-ty, joc′-u-lar-y, pol-y-phon′-ic, op-po′-nent.

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Cody, Sherwin, 2007. The Art Of Writing & Speaking The English Language Word-Study. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved April 2022 from

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at, located at

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by Sherwin Cody @sherwincody.American writer and entrepreneur who developed a long-running home-study course in speaking and writing
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