• 3-minute read
  • 11th September 2015

Spelling Tips: When to Drop the Letter ‘E’

The complicated system of rules and exceptions comprising the English language frequently baffles even native speakers. Consequently, no matter how accomplished a writer you are, there’s a good chance you’ll end up making a few errors now and then.

One mistake we see regularly relates to words which end in the letter ‘e’ when adding a suffix (e.g. ‘-ing’ or ‘-able’). This is a particularly tricky issue, as there’s no universal rule for when the final ‘e’ should be kept and when it should be dropped. There are a few guidelines you can follow to help avoid mistakes, though.

Suffixes Beginning with Vowels

The rule for dropping the ‘-e’ at the end of a word is to do it when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel. So, for example, the word ‘hope’ plus the suffix ‘-ed’ demands dropping the ‘e’ at the end of ‘hope’ (making the past tense ‘hoped’ rather than ‘hopeed’).

Other examples include:

SuffixExample WordModified Version

This differs from words which end in consonants, which can accept these suffixes without modification (e.g. ‘punch’ becomes ‘punching’ and ‘punched’ when the suffixes ‘-ing’ or ‘-ed’ are added). For this rule, though, ‘y’ counts as a vowel suffix (e.g. Ice → Icy or Laze Lazy).

Some Exceptions

Every rule has exceptions though, so it’s important to keep an eye out for words ending in double vowels, ‘-ce’ or ‘-ge’.

In the case of double vowels (e.g. ‘-ee’ or ‘oe’), suffixes beginning with a vowel do not usually require you to drop the final ‘e’:

Flee Fleeing

Shoe Shoeing

Canoe Canoeist

An exception to this is ‘argue’, as when this is modified to ‘arguing’ the final ‘e’ is dropped.

With words that end in ‘-ce’ or ‘-ge’, the rule is to not drop the final ‘e’ when adding a suffix beginning with an ‘o’ or an ‘a’ (such as ‘-ous’ or ‘-able’):

Courage Courageous

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Trace Traceable

Knowledge → Knowledgeable

There are also some words where dropping the final ‘e’ before the suffix ‘-able’ is optional. For example:

Love → Loveable/Lovable

Like → Likeable/Likable

Move → Moveable/Movable

Suffixes Beginning with Consonants

Generally speaking, suffixes beginning with consonants (e.g. ‘-ly’, ‘-ful’ or ‘-ness’) do not require you to drop the final ‘e’ from a word. The noun ‘love’, for instance, can be modified to the adjective ‘lovely”’ by simply adding the suffix ‘-ly’.

The exception here is words which end with ‘-ue’, like ‘argue’ and ‘true’. In these cases, it’s necessary to drop the final ‘e’:

Due → Duly

True → Truly

Argue → Argument

If you follow these general principles it should be much easier to know when to drop the final ‘e’ in a word when adding a suffix. But since there are exceptions to these rules, it never hurts to have the experts at Proofed check your writing. Try sending in a 500-word sample for free today.

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