I Before E, Except in the UK?

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Something called “Support for Spelling,” described as “official guidance distributed to schools” in this article from the Telegraph, now contains the recommendation that UK schools not teach the familiar rule “I before E, except after C.” The reasoning is that there are just so many exceptions that the rule ceases to be much of a rule anymore, and only causes confusion. Naturally, this has stirred up a hornet’s nest…

I wonder. Honestly, this rule always struck me as a kind of useless rule, anyway, because of how may exceptions have to be memorized (although it’s not so bad if you’re a reader).

Useful, or more trouble than it’s worth?

(EDIT: Here is much more background on the rule, as well as the teaching context, from the excellent World Wide Words.)






2 responses to “I Before E, Except in the UK?”

  1. Tora Avatar

    I was originally taught “i before e except after c”, and found it nearly useless. Later, someone told me that the full rule was “i before e except after c, or when sounded as ‘a’ as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’.” That second part makes it a LOT more useful. It still has exceptions, like “weird” and “caffeine”, and so on, but it has far fewer of them!

  2. Clarissa Avatar

    Yeah, that helps some…I just added a link to World Wide Words’ comment on the issue: http://www.worldwidewords.org/nl/cobf.htm#N1

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