Eyeing or Eying – Which is the Correct Spelling?

The English language can be frustrating, as it has many rules with exceptions. For example, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “drop the -e and add -ing”.

It’s catchy, it rhymes, and—for the most part—it’s true. But what about when it’s not? You may end up looking for errors where there are none, i.e., is it eyeing or eying?

“Eyeing” is correct for “to eye”, meaning to look something up and down.

However, it breaks the common rule “drop the -e and add -ing” and although some American dictionaries accept the “eying” spelling, it’s considered incorrect.

For more information on why this simple word causes so much confusion, keep reading to learn about this common conjugation rule and how it sometimes trips up even native English speakers.

When Should You Drop the -E?

Every elementary/primary school student in an English-speaking country has probably heard the phrase “drop the -e and add -ing”. It’s a common mnemic device used to teach one of the most basic tenets of English grammar:

  • Care becomes caring
  • Dare becomes daring
  • Make becomes making
  • Hide becomes hiding
  • Drive becomes driving

The problem is that not all words follow the rule. One of the most common exceptions to the rule is words that have a -y before the terminal -e.

This means that words like the verb “to eye” keep their end -e, meaning that “eye” becomes “eyeing”.

Where did the “Eying” Spelling Come From?

So, if eyeing is the grammatically correct spelling, why do some people spell it without the terminal -e? It all comes down to American versus British spellings. Around the turn of the 19th century, American linguists such as Noah Webster decided that English American spellings should be simplified.

For many words, this meant removing all superfluous letters that didn’t affect pronunciation, such as, color in favour of colour and favor in favour of favour. Simple right?

Is it OK to Use the “Eying” Spelling?

It all depends on where you live and your audience. If you are in the United States with an American readership, you may consider using the shortened “eying” spelling, however, if you’re in the UK, Canada, Australia, or any other English-speaking nation, you’ll likely be reprimanded for your poor spelling.

Given the global audience that many writers have these days, especially when writing for the web, I would suggest it’s best to be grammatically correct and stick with the formal “eyeing” spelling.

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About Gemma Wright

I'm Gemma Wright, co-owner of ProCopyTips and a freelance PR consultant and copywriter. Having worked as a PR Manager for large financial services companies in the UK, I now focus on helping small and growing businesses to thrive through the power of effective communications.

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