A Rule to Know for Better Spelling: the “J” Rule and How To Teach It

The best part of using Orton Gillingham to teach or tutor is that the rules are clearly defined. For the Short Vowel Rules there is FLOSS, “CH” Rule, “J” Rule, and “K” Rule. Today we are going to talk about strategies for teaching “J” Rule.

Typically, Short Vowel Rule words are simple looking, one-syllable words that come from the Anglo-Saxon language. Words like, sack, dodge, grass, hatch. Longer words are typically Greek or Latin words.

“J” Rule Defined

The “J” Rule says, -dge is used after one short vowel at the end of one syllable words to spell “j.”

“J” Rule Strategies

The sound “j” is usually spelled with ge or dge.

Use -dge after one short vowel at the end of one syllable words to spell “j.” For example, hedge, badge, smidge, dodge, smudge

Use -ge after a consonant, after a diphthong, and in a magic e word to spell “j.”

For example:

  • merge (after a consonant)
  • stooge (after a diphthong)  
  • stage (in a magic e word)

Students need to understand the C&G Rule (hard/soft C&G) before learning the “J” Short Vowel Rule.

  • J is used when followed by a, o, u (jab, job, junk)
  • G is used when followed by e, i, y (gem, giant, gym, page, merge, purge)

(Note: there are many common words that defy the C&G Rule, for example girl, gift, get)


The letter d with an i or u after the d can take on the “j” sound. Examples, soldier, graduate

The sound “ij” can be made in multi-syllable words, which is similar sounding to “j.”

Many multi-syllable words use -age to spell “ij” at the end. Examples, garbage, manage

Others use -ege or -ige to spell “ij” at the end. Examples, college, privilege, vestige


There are 5 multi-syllable words that use -dge: acknowledge, cartridge, knowledge, partridge, porridge

What if my student finds an exception I didn’t teach?

I see a lot of questions that ask, “What do I tell a student who asks, why is this word not following the rule?” The answer is there are always exceptions (there is no exception to there being exceptions to every rule!). This is not what you tell a student right away though. First, establish the rule, then get into exceptions.

The goal is to ease into the information and add more information after the rule is digested.

Repetition is key to getting this information to be automatic – making sure that students not only know the rule by definition, but can write words by following the rule (writing the words by hearing them through dictation) and reading the words (sight).

Want More? Want more Short Vowel Rules? Visit the Workbook Store for Short Vowel Rule Packets. Or see the Scope & Sequence Workbooks.

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