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Double the Consonant Rules

Spelling doesn’t have to stump your readers. The key to elevate a student’s understanding is to explain the reason behind English spelling. Here are three rules to help your students understand when to double the consonant in words.

1. We expect content words to contain 3 letters.
One of the first words you’ll see in the Viva Phonics program where the consonant is doubled is in the word “egg”. Why is the <g> doubled?
The word “egg” has a specific meaning. It is a content word. A quick look in the dictionary tells us that a content word is “a word, typically a noun, verb, or adjective, or adverb, that carries semantic content.”
We can visualize or draw a picture of the object or action being represented by the word.

Function words have little to no meaning. The words “to”, “the”, and “of” are function words. English likes to keep function words to two-letters, when possible. Thus, why we add that extra consonant to words such as, “egg”, “add”, and “inn.”

2. The doubled consonant marks the sound of the preceding vowel.
This means that when we see a consonant that is doubled, we can tell that the vowel before it has the short-vowel sound. This is probably the most common consonant doubling rule you’ll encounter with your students. I saved it for number 2 because it is more complex. One of the first inflectional endings I teach that calls for this rule is <-ing>. First, we practice reading words that end in <-ing>. Generally, the base word ends in 1 vowel and 1 consonant. I tell students that we double the consonant to protect the vowel sound. Give the words “hop” and “hope” as an example when teaching. Explain that the base word in “hopping” is “hop” and the base word in “hoping” is “hope”.
hop + ing → hopping
hope + ing → hoping

3. We also double to differentiate the spelling in homophones.  
English likes to use different spellings to distinguish between words that sound the same and have different meanings. In this case it often happens with names.

web, Webb
mat, Matt
an, Ann
but, butt

Another thing to keep in mind is that not all consonants are subject to the doubling rule. We don’t double <x, w, or y>.

Venezky, Richard. L. (1999) The America Way of Spelling. The Structure and Origins of American English Orthography. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.