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Adding Suffixes: To Double or Not to Double Consonants

Do you ever wonder if you should double a letter when adding a suffix? For example, why does shop become shopping, not shoping since hope becomes hoping, not hopping?

This week’s tip will help you spell correctly when adding suffixes. We have Lawrence K. to thank for sending this suggestion as well as for many of the examples.

Tip: When adding a suffix, double the final consonant if the preceding vowel would otherwise change from short to long.

Example: shop / shopping
Explanation: Without the additional “p,” the pronunciation would rhyme with hoping.

Example: bat / batted
Explanation: Without the additional “t,” the pronunciation would rhyme with gated.

Of course, what kind of English rule would we have without exceptions? (A consistent one?)

According to the tip, transit and profit should both have their consonants doubled when adding a suffix. Otherwise, the “i” becomes long. However, this is not the case.

Examples:
transit / transited / transiting
profit / profited / profiting

In an effort to make us feel even less secure with our spelling, some words are spelled correctly by either doubling the consonant or not.

Example: travel / traveling OR travelling (British preference)

The moral of the story is that we often have no choice but to look these words up or rely on spell checkers that don’t always catch these exceptions.

Pop Quiz

1. I am writing / writting my memoirs.

2. I need a new fited / fitted sheet for my bed.

3. She felt traped / trapped in her job.

4. The boat was propeled / propelled by jet fuel.

5. This document needs formating / formatting.

6. The announcer recaped / recapped the plays.

7. Her remains were intered / interred in the nearby cemetery.

8. His book still hasn’t been edited / editted.

9. She hoped that meditating would help her become enlightened / enlightenned.

10. Labeling / labelling your files thoughtfully will help you find them again later.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. I am writing my memoirs.

2. I need a new fitted sheet for my bed.

3. She felt trapped in her job.

4. The boat was propelled by jet fuel.

5. This document needs formatting.

6. The announcer recapped the plays.

7. Her remains were interred at the nearby cemetery.

8. His book still hasn’t been edited.

9. She hoped that meditating would help her become enlightened.

10. Labeling or Labelling your files thoughtfully will help you find them again later.

Posted on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, at 12:07 pm


8 Comments

8 Responses to “Adding Suffixes: To Double or Not to Double Consonants”

  1. FJ says:

    Thank you for your detailed explanation. I found a spelling mistake on HK immigration website and was not sure because I am not an native English speaker.
    The typo can be viewed in article 16 at http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hkvisas_7.htm.

  2. Rod Everson says:

    One more tip that will help out with most of the “exceptions” of the sort you mentioned.

    When the word has two syllables, like “cancel” and “profit,” only apply the first rule to double the ending consonant after a short vowel sound if the second syllable is the accented syllable. Otherwise, don’t double it. (The accent on the final syllable stresses the short sound, which we preserve by doubling the ending consonant.)

    Thus, canceled and canceling, profited and profiting.

    But with a word like “rebel” becomes rebelling, rebelled, rebellion.

    And “permit” becomes permitted and permitting.

    It works for 3 syllables too: inhabit, inhabiting, inhabited, but uncommitted.

    This rule comes out of Spalding’s “Writing Road to Reading” and has helped me out numerous times since I ran across it a few years ago.

  3. James says:

    Why do words ending in “x” not follow this rule?

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