Example of such words are:

http://grammarist.com/spelling/cancel/ http://grammarist.com/spelling/travel/

As far as I know, at least in American English, words that have single syllable double their ending consonant letters when modified.

Such as:

hop - hopping
cut - cutting
map - mapped

Another part of my question is, are there any exemptions to this rule? Does this rule also apply in British English? If yes, what are the exemptions? If not, what rules apply in regard to this specific matter?

If there are no such rules, perhaps the only way to go is by memorization. Could anyone cite me a real good exhaustive list of such words?

  • I'm actually asking for both. I need to familiarize myself to both styles so I can be consistent in my writing. I just thought having answers to these questions would help me. I even think I haven't ask more questions that could actually help me in this matter. Does this actually require memorization? Like there's no really rules that apply and every word has its proper spelling when modified? – supertonsky Jun 6 '17 at 9:32
  • I'm sorry I'm really lost. Like how would you know how the word should be spelled when modified without having to look it up in a dictionary? Any tips and advice? If memorization is the only way to go if no really rules apply here, then an exhaustive list would help. – supertonsky Jun 6 '17 at 9:36
  • Then we can ask whether put and putt both become putting, or must we use puting? And what if there were a word pute as well? Do not confuse busing and bussing (= kissing). – GEdgar Jun 6 '17 at 13:03
  • See english.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… for rules about double consonants in verb forms, and english.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… for differences in British English – herisson Jun 6 '17 at 15:08

You double the final consonant in a word if both of the following are true:

  • The last three letters take the form of consonant, vowel, consonant.
  • The last syllable of the word is stressed or the word is only one syllable.

In these cases, doubling the last letter is done in practice to ensure that the new word does not adopt new phonetic qualities. "Hop" is a great example, where failing to double the consonant would produce "hoping" and "hoped"--very different words, both semantically and phonetically!

Other examples include:

refer - referred
remit - remitted 
occur - occurred

Like all good English rules, there are exceptions to this.

  • If the last consonant is "c" and the word otherwise fits the above words, you typically don't double it. Instead, you add "k". Example: "mimic" becomes "mimicking".
  • If the last consonant is a "w" or "x", you don't double it. The reason for this goes deep into the history of these letters. Example: "fix" becomes "fixed" and "blow" becomes "blowing".
  • You also do not double if the last letter is "y" (because the preceding vowel and the "y" pronounced together finish with a vowel sound). This is less to do with the history of the letter and more to do with the history of phonetics and spelling in English. Example: "key" becomes "keyed".

Lastly, the one rule I know of that's different in British English than American English:

  • In BRE, if a word fits the ending in consonant, vowel, consonant pattern, ends in "l", and the last syllable is not stressed, you double the "l" anyway. For example, "travel" in American English becomes "traveled", while in BRE it becomes "travelled". At the same time, "propel" becomes "propelled" in both American English and BRE.

English is a wacky language, so please don't completely trust any set of rules when deciding the right way to write a word. Rules like these can be a helpful guideline, but if the thing you are writing is important and you're in doubt, take a short moment to look up the correct form.

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  • Transferred. Programmed. – tchrist Jun 6 '17 at 13:08
  • 2
    @tchrist: it's programmed because the original spelling was programme. It's transferred because the verb used to be accented on the second syllable. So the real rule is to apply the above rules to the 19th century pronunciations and spellings. – Peter Shor Jun 6 '17 at 13:09
  • @sumelic You're right. The exception examples I had in mind don't actually fit the rules I posted. I left the mention that exceptions might exist at the end of my answer, as I'm not a living dictionary, but I removed the bullet point mention of specific examples. Thanks for pointing out the mistake. – R Mac Jun 6 '17 at 18:04
  • Authoritative references? – Edwin Ashworth Feb 15 at 12:59
  • I would be shocked if there are any. I know of no authority on this subject in particular. – R Mac Feb 17 at 2:20

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