From A to Z;Primary

27th March 1998 at 00:00
Sue Palmer's weekly guide to the alphabet

L is a liquid, lyrical letter. Listen to it lilting lovingly in a lullaby - la-la-la. Or licking lazily along a sunlit lakeside - lap lap lap. Or splishing and sploshing in initial blends: bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, sl, spl.

But don't be lulled into a false sense of security. L is also for learner, and there are a surprising collection of spelling rules (and exceptions) associated with it.

The first is easy enough - at the end of one-syllable words l is usually doubled (ball, bell, bill, boll, bull). The second is reasonably simple - a final ul syllable on words is usually spelled le - little, cuddle, table, bubble. But once you know rule 2 you can move on to a host of exceptions - el words such as label, towel and tunnel; al words like animal, hospital and final.

The exceptions illustrate the next rule - at the end of multi-syllabic words l is not doubled. So it's cell but cancel, bill but gerbil, boll but gambol. You do, though, double final l when adding an ending - cancel becomes cancelled, travel becomes traveller, (unless you're in the United States, where it's canceled and traveler. Ho hum.)

And finally, any one-syllable final-l word that becomes part of a multi-syllabic word loses one of its ls - all, but already; well, but welfare; full, but beautiful; till, but until; full and fill, but fulfil.

Still, l can also be silent. Spend half an hour lying under a palm tree, listening to psalms, with the sunlight slowly browning your calves, and calm will return. Lap lap lap, splish splosh, la-la-la.

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