Double Consonants

Double Consonants : Grammar and Spelling Tips

One of the most common types of spelling error is a mistake over whether a word is spelled with a double or a single consonant. There are several possibilities:

• A word should have a double consonant, but is written with only one. Words which may be misspelled in this way include appoint (and related words like appointment and disappointment); address; occur; suppress.

• A consonant is mistakenly doubled. This is especially likely when a single consonant follows a short vowel, as in canister; banister; pavilion. Other words likely to be misspelled in this way include anoint, apartment, biased, omit.

• A word has two sets of double consonants, one or both of which is left as a single letter.

Examples include accommodate, aggressive, committee, embarrass and millennium.

• One consonant in a word should be doubled and another left single - but which is which? Likely candidates for this type of misspelling might be appall, accumulate, parallel. A short vowel before the consonant that should be single makes life more difficult in words such as commemorate, desiccate, disappear, necessary, recommend, reconnoiter and titillate. The Caribbean and the Mediterranean can both cause problems.

Some mistakes are caused by trying too hard - you may remember a difficult point about one word and wrongly think that it applies to another that looks or sounds similar. For instance, though accommodate has a double m following a double c, in accumulate the m is single. Harass has only a single r even though the r in embarrass is double.

In general, many mistakes in the use of double and single consonants arise from comparison with words that sound or look similar or with related words.

For example, many people spell inoculate with a double n influenced by words such as innocent and innocuous. While the number of words beginning with irr- (irregular, irritable etc.) makes the single r in iridescent harder to remember. Even trickier are words like fulfil and skilful, set beside full, skill and fill.

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