Bringing the Text to Life
“I before e except after c.”
Remember chanting that in grade school? For generations, it’s been one of the commonly used mnemonics to help children learn how to spell certain words in the English language. It worked to help us spell ie words such as friend, thief and yield and ei words such as ceiling, receive and deceit. [Suggestion: Display all these ei and ie words on a screen or easel.]
But you may also remember that you soon had to learn several exceptions to that rule; for example, neither and weird.
As far as we know, the “i before e except after c” ditty first appeared in an 1866 spelling manual. But before long, it became known as the “short form” of the rule. That’s because the many exceptions to it caused some teachers to add qualifiers. Thus, an 1888 book altered it to “i before e except after c or when sounded like a as in neighbor and weigh.”
But that long form didn’t cover all the exceptions either, offering no help for height, leisure, ancient, efficient, protein and...