Teaching Silent Final E: The Catch-all Rule

Silent E with Shurley english.jpg

If you have been tracking with my series of silent final e posts, you don’t want to miss Part 4: The Catch-all Rule. My students always enjoy this one because of its name and how it works!

So far, you know the first 3 rules for why an e appears at the ends of some words. It is important that I remind you of those rules before discussing Rule 4. As students become more and more familiar with Silent Final E words, they will be able to use them as a sort of litmus test for new Silent Final E words they encounter. When students find new words to read and spell, they will be able to analyze them and even code them. (To learn more about word coding, check out the Shurley English website: www.shurley.com.) But for now, I can explain Rule 4, The Catch-all Rule, if you understand the first three rules.

Let’s say a student is aware of a new Silent Final E word. The word is seize. After discussing the word’s meaning and using it in several sentences, it is time to lock it into memory so that the spelling becomes easy…except, the silent e at the end just doesn’t seem to fit any of the rules. It isn’t there to make the interior vowel long. We know this because

Catch All Rule with Shurley English.png

So, what is the only solution? Simple, the e is just there BECAUSE IT IS! If the silent final e isn’t there for any of the first three rules, then it meets Rule 4, The Catch-all Rule. Some linguists call this a “lazy e” because it is just there and does nothing except occupy space.

Believe me, kids love to analyze Silent Final E words if they know the system. Just you wait, when you notice kids purposely identifying WHY a Silent Final E resides at the end of a word or syllable, their spelling ability soars.

For more helpful spelling (…and reading) hints, take a look at our first and second grade levels of Shurley English. You’ll be surprised at just how dependable and predictable the rules are!

(This post is part of a series on Silent Final E. To start at the beginning, click here.)

Comment /Source

David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.


He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.