My son is learning how to spell. He is doing a good job listening to sounds and working out spelling that way (which doesn't work for many words, but at least a lot of common ones), but although he's gotten the -ing chunk, he frequently misses doubling letters in these words.

Is there a guideline for when the end consonant is doubled? He's working on these sorts of words:

  • riding
  • sitting
  • skating
  • writing
  • getting

Are they still teaching the old 'long/short' vowels? If so, here's the rule:

If the syllable before the /-ing/ is pronounced with a 'long' vowel, leave the final consonant single (and delete any final silent /e/)
If it's pronounced with a 'short' vowel, double the final consonant.

It may help make this clearer if you explain that a vowel before a doubled consonant is (almost) always short. Then write the /-ing/ forms out 'wrong' and invite your son to pronounce them the way they look:

ride   ridding
sit    siting
skate  skatting
write  writting
get    geting

As Renan points out, it gets more complicated when the final syllable of the base form is unstressed; but it looks like your son hasn't gotten that far yet.


For verbs ending in 'el' such as travel, cancel, chisel, excel, fuel, funnel, grovel, label, marvel etc, remember that British English requires a double 'l' as in 'travelling', whereas American English does not.


From here, you double the consonant when:

  • one-syllable words: if the word ends with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern (sit -> sitting, get -> getting).
  • two-syllable words: if the stress is on the second syllable (begin -> beginning).

For your other words (ride -> riding, skate -> skating, write -> writing) the e is dropped and replaced by ing.


We have verbs whose final letter -e is silent, e.g., to hope. When -ing or -ed is added the letter e is dropped to avoid clumsy spellings such as hopeing or hopeed.

If we wrote hop and hoping we would not see whether hoping is from the verb to hope, or to hop.

That is the reason for consonant doubling after short and stressed vowels (a e i o u) + one consonant.

Consonant doubling also occurs with long and stressed vowels as in to refer and referring and with unstressed vowels (only special endings) as in to travel / travelling (American spelling: traveling).

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