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The Floss Rule for Spelling

Have you ever wondered why some words have a double consonant at the end (such as sniff), while other words do not (such as dog and bat)?

The answer is easy–and we call it The Floss Rule. The Floss Rule is a really simple spelling rule that helps kids remember when to use a double consonant at the end of a word.

Check out The Floss Rule in this video, and then read on for free printable spelling rule posters and a sample lesson!

Why Do We Call It “The Floss Rule”?

The rule states that if a word has only one vowel and ends in F, L, or S, double the last letter.

The word floss is a perfect example of this rule, and it also contains the letters f, l, and s! That makes “The Floss Rule” a pretty handy name, doesn’t it?

infographic showing the floss rule for spelling

Tips and tricks like The Floss Rule are taught throughout the All About Spelling program. Want to see more? Download these two free resources to see just how easy teaching spelling rules can be.

Download All About Spelling Level 1, Step 18.
This lesson shows how we teach doubling a consonant at the end of one-syllable words.

pdf-icon-transparent-background2-small-p3

Download our free Spelling Rules Posters.
This handy resource will help make learning three important spelling rules easy and fun to remember for your children.

Has the Floss Rule helped your child? I would love to hear about it in the comments below! And check out our other spelling rules, too!

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Jen

says:

What about the letter z?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good question, Jen.

All About Reading and All About Spelling generally teach a rule when it holds true about 97% of the time. Double Z doesn’t really fit in that category, so that’s why it’s not included. Only about half of the words that end in Z have a double Z, and some of the common words end in a single Z (quiz, whiz). There are so few words that end in double Z, that they can be easily handled as exceptions.

I hope this helps!

SHARANJEET KAUR AHLUWALIA

says:

Yes, it has.

Carolyn

says:

Good idea. I will use it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Carolyn.

Connie

says:

Great stuff

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Connie.

Amy Avino Bryan

says:

Great video & poster – thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Amy!

Brandi

says:

I love this video. Clear, short and formatted well. My kids tend to listen to strangers in videos better than they listen to me. If I wanted to keep and eye out or find more tip videos is the blog the best spot?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you like this video, Brandi!

In addition to the blog, we share all of our videos on our YouTube channel as well.

Crystal Guinn

says:

I can’t open any of my files I downloaded

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry to hear that, Chrystal. Are you still unable to open any downloads? If so, please email us at [email protected].

Heba Nasser

says:

Why do words such as ‘dollar’,’coffee’, and “muffin” follow the Floss rule although they are two-syllable words?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great question, Heba.

The answer is that these words are not following the Floss Rule. It is a different thing altogether and includes other letters doubled as well, such as T in the word better, B in rabbit, and P in happy.

The middle consonants in these words are doubled to protect the short vowel sound in the first syllable. Check out our blog post on Open and Closed Syllables for an explanation for why all these words and many others have doubled consonants in the middle.

Kuldeep Kaur

says:

Why does not apply the floss rule on word BUS

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good question, Kuldeep!

The answer is that the word bus is a shortening of the word omnibus, which is what buses were originally called. Since omnibus has more than one syllable, the Floss Rule didn’t apply. But when people began shortening the word, the spelling was retained.

Gas is another example of this sort of thing. Gas is a shortening of the word gasoline.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Denise Chung

says:

What about the word pus?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great example of an exception, Denise! Pus comes to English from Latin pretty much unchanged.

Kelly

says:

We also add the z to this rule so the mnemonic device we use is Sammy Likes Fried Zebras – it’s a cartoon picture of a guy sitting in a restaurant being served miniature (live) zebras on a plate. For the younger kids (grades 1 – 2) I change it to “Friendly” zebras, but my 4th graders get a kick out of the original.

Thanks for providing the “rulebreakers”. That was very helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What a fun mnemonic, Kelly!

All About Reading and All About Spelling generally teach a rule when it holds true about 97% of the time. Double Z doesn’t really fit in that category, so that’s why it’s not included here. Only about half of the words that end in Z have a double Z, and some of the more common words end in a single Z (quiz, whiz). There are so few words that end in double Z that they are often more easily handled as exceptions.

joe

says:

what are five exceptions?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

There are some exceptions to the Floss Rule, Joe. The most common five would probably be if, of, us, yes, and this.

Darla Robinson

says:

What is the history behind the words be, if, of, us, yes and this?

Ghalia

says:

That’s helpful.. Thanks a lot

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Ghalia!

K.S.Ganabady Soupramaniane

says:

Very good , simple explanation Thanks for your lesson

Sireen

says:

Tq. It’s clear many doubts which I have. Now I can clear my students about floss rule.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy this was helpful for you, Sireen.

Ssebuggwaawo Robinah Catherine

says:

Thank very much, it has relieved me with many questions.Now am able to help others.
Now if it is teaching individual sounds, do we say. b-e- l-l, g-l-a-s-s?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good question. No. When you segment words with doubled ending letters, they segment as a single sound, not as a double sound. Students will say /g/-/l/-/a/-/s/. This is because when we speak the word glass, we only hear the /s/ once. To be able to segment the word to have two /s/ sounds requires students to have already memorized how to spell the word and at that point they don’t need to segment. There are too many words in English to make memorizing every word a useful approach to spelling.

Rather, students will segment the word /g/-/l/-/a/-/s/ and will then apply the Floss Rule to know to double the S.

Our blog post on Segmenting: A Critical Skill for Spelling may be helpful for you.

Rashi

says:

Hey thanks for the explanation. I had a doubt regarding words like class , glass here the a does not have the short vowel sound instead it make the /ah/ sound. So how should I justify that. Do sounds of short vowels change at few places when we use the floss rule?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rashi,
From your question, I see that you do not speak English with a typical North American accent. For most of North America, words like class and glass do use the short A sound.

What you describe is what is found with those that speak English with a more British accent. The letter A has five sounds for many English speakers, but only three sounds for most in North America.

(Note when I say “British English” I also mean Australian, New Zealander, Indian, and other places English is spoken. I’m simply using the term “British English as an easier way to distinguish it from “North American English”.)

The additional sounds of A are not affected the Floss Rule but rather have rules of their own. Here is one that may help you with words like class and glass. “In British English, we use much the same /ah/ sound for words such as glass, after, bath, start, car and cart. Sometimes we use an R in the spelling, and sometimes not. There is a rule that tells us when to use the R: If the sound of /ah/ is followed by S, F, or TH, you do not need to use an R in the spelling.” Note: In some dialects, there are a few exceptions to this rule, but not many: banana, tomato, and scarf.

I hope this helps some, but please let me know if you have additional questions. It would also be helpful to know where you are located so I can pinpoint any regional accent help I may give.

Hamid

says:

Great rule, thanks.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Hamid.

Deena Shahab

says:

Loved the floss rule explanation!! Perfect timing for me I have a class in which I’ll teach it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was timely for you, Deena!

trish

says:

Great rule, now is there a ee nad ea rule? leaf or leef?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Trish,
I’m sorry, no. There is no rule for when to use EE or EA to spell the long e sound. These words must simply be learned visually. Here is how All About Spelling approaches tricky phonograms like these:

1) The most frequently used teams are usually introduced first. In the case of EE and EA, EE is introduced first.

2) The students are given a word bank to read and review so they get used to seeing the correct spelling. These are used to help build up the student’s visual memory, and the students practice spelling with just that phonogram. (Part of what you are doing is helping your child create a mental “schema” as he reads these words.) Then, when the student isn’t sure how a word should be spelled, they can do “scratch paper spelling” and recognize the correct spelling.

Over time, AAS is actually teaching several spelling strategies: phonetic, rule-based, visual, and morphemic. Here’s an article with more information on “Effective Spelling Strategies.” AAS gradually teaches students how to analyze and study words, until they can do this independently.

3) Students practice the words with letter tiles and in writing, in dictation phrases and sentences, and with the daily review box. Continual, individualized review is a major component of All About Spelling. With the Spelling Review Box, after the student learns a word, it is not “retired.” We revisit the word in future lessons and make sure that it is indeed mastered. If the student needs additional practice, the word is put behind the “Review” divider in their Spelling Review Box. The cards make it easy to customize the review for your student’s needs.

4) Some students benefit from kinesthetic activities and tactile methods as they practice. Students can use tactile surfaces such as a Salt Trays, plush carpet, or a ziplock bag filled with shaving cream as a writing surface. Write the word in large letters, using the index finger of the dominant hand to practice writing the word.

5) Teaching similar constructs at the same time aids future retrieval; so AAS teaches one pattern at a time. The student will learn a number of words using the same pattern so that he learns to categorize those words together in his mind.

6) The next pattern is not introduced until many lessons later. In the case of EE and EA, EE is introduced in Level 2, while EA is introduced in Level 3. Students get lots of practice with one before another pattern is added.

Presenting multiple ways to spell one sound all at once can undermine that understanding for children who struggle, so AAS separates them and gives children a chance to master them incrementally. But this also means that as you work through the program, you want to make sure they are solid on what they have learned already.

7) After the student has learned a few patterns, All About Spelling will include sorting exercises to help them test out different spellings and remember which pattern goes with which word. This provides an opportunity for you to evaluate how your student is doing with the various patterns. If he makes a lot of mistakes, go back and work on the patterns individually for a time, and then try again.

8) Lastly, when students are simply unsure, they can use a dictionary, an electronic speller, or Google to find the correct spelling of the word.

Teresa

says:

Hi there! So, my daughter (7) asked me the following. Why is puppet a double consonant and not closet? The first syllable in closet has a short vowel and one consonant. So, after seeing your poster, I would assume it’s because it has a z sound…? Or, does the base word actually have to be a “real” word? “Clos” is not a word. :) Or, is closet not doubled for BOTH of these reasons…?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Your daughter is paying attention to words and that is wonderful, Teresa!

However, Floss Rule does not apply to puppet or closet. The Floss Rule only applies to one-syllable words with short vowel ending in F, L, or S. We don’t have a blog post specific to these words, but it is related to closed syllable types and I think you will find our How to Teach Open and Closed Syllables blog post helpful.

The P in the middle of puppet is doubled to protect the short vowel. This makes both syllables closed and the vowels in closed syllables say their short sounds Otherwise the first syllable would be open and the U would say its long sound, making the word pupet /pū/-/pet/.

You are on a somewhat right track about the /z/ sound of the S in closet. Double S almost always says the /s/ sound, and a single S between two vowels almost always says the /z/ sound. However, there are other words that don’t double the middle consonant and still have a short vowel sound. For example: cabin, habit, metal, etc. This is because doubling the middle consonant to protect a short vowel is an “often” rule, not an always one.

Does this clear it up for your daughter? This is covered in All About Reading level 2, but with more depth and detail in All About Spelling level 2.

Melissa Candee

says:

Why is the word “plus” spelled with one s

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

The word plus is an exception to the Floss Rule, Melissa. There are about eight words where a final S is not doubled (us, yes, this, bus, gas, pus, plus, and thus) and about 280 words where it is doubled (grass, miss, less, chess, and many others). So while some of the eight exceptions are very common words that a young reader will see a lot, the rule is reliable 97% of the time for doubling S.

Rochelle

says:

Thank you for this! How does the child drop down the double F, L, or S when spelling with tiles? Does he pronounce one sound (so “f”) and pull down two F’s at the same time? Or does he pronounce the one sound (so “f”) and pull down ONE F and then pull down the second F silently?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good question, Rochelle.

I think either way you proposed is good, but I think I like the idea of pulling down two Fs (or L or S) at once with a single sound. However, it doesn’t really matter. The purpose is to get the child to think about the Floss Rule and either way will do that.

Susan S

says:

These are great posters; thank you! I also like that you included one for coloring… work on that eye/hand coordination and fine motor skills.

Merin

says:

Great lesson! Where can I get that digital scrabble type board?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Merin,
I think you are asking about our Letter Tiles app for tablets. Our Top Tips for Using the Letter Tiles App blog post includes videos for more details on how the app works.

Let me know if you need anything else.

Olivia

says:

This is very helpful! Are there other videos like this?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Olivia,
Yes, we have lots of videos! Check out our All About Learning Press YouTube channel to search through them. We often have blog posts with free printables that go along with the videos as well.

Olivia

says:

Awesome! Thank you!

Emmanuelle

says:

Fantastic! A great yet simple rule to reminder.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Emmanuelle!

Jancy

says:

very useful

Ernie Fairysha

says:

Making my life easier after watching the video

Ernie Fairysha

says:

the spelling makes me more understand about the flow.

Krisann Brown

says:

Love this

Jorje armen

says:

You made my day after 30 years of MISSPELLINGS

Thanks to you.