I before E, except after C, and in quite a few other cases

i before eA new education strategy from the UK government is recommending that teachers stop teaching the traditional spelling ‘rule’ “I before E except after C”.

Although it’s familiar to generations of English speakers, the National Strategies document Support for Spelling says there are too many exceptions to the rule, and the mnemonic could be more confusing than useful.  Though they say that it is useful only for ee sounds (as in receive), the rule still has exceptions – seize, seizure, and the ee versions of either and neither.

Campaigners for plain English and simple spelling reforms have taken this as support for their cause, but Judy Parkinson, author of I Before E (Except After C): Old-School Ways to Remember Stuff, suggests that teachers should be able to make up their own minds about using the phrase in their classes.

For instance, one predominantly American variation of the rhyme includes the lines “…or when it sounds like an A; as in neighbour and weigh“.  This happily deals with the exceptions veil, beige, eight, and sleigh.

I think it would be more trouble than it’s worth to try to include all of these other exceptions: counterfeit, leisure, caffeine, science, ancient, foreign

Full article from Times Online.

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