site search by freefind advanced

I Before E Except After C?

by Academic Associates Founder Cliff Ponder

Note:  If you purchase anything from links on this site, I may make a commission.

Join our Facebook page.

Students have had to learn that old spelling rule about I before E except after C for over a hundred years. But it's wrong! Words like ceiling, receive, and conceit fit the rule, but words like ancient, glacier, and science don’t.

There are only eight root words in the entire English language spelled C-E-I, vs. eighteen spelled C-I-E. More than twice as many words are spelled with C-I-E than with C-E-I.

Everyone Can Learn To Read

And that I Before E part as a general spelling rule is only right about two-thirds of the time. If you rely on that rule, you’ll misspell one out of every three words that contain E-I or I-E.

I before E except after C

There is a third part of that old rule, however, which is one-hundred percent correct. It says, “Or When Sounded Like A, As In Vein Or Weigh.” E-I can copy the sound of long A, as in vein or weigh, but I-E can’t.

The eight C-E-I words are: ceiling, conceit, conceive, deceit, deceive, perceive, receipt, and receive.

The eighteen C-I-E words are: ancient, boccie, coefficient, concierge, conscience, deficient, efficient, fancier, financier, glacier, omniscience, prescience, prima facie, proficient, science, sufficient, society, specie.

Additional Comments by
Glenn Davis

It is amazing how we will take rules like "i before e except after c" at face value without ever checking them out. As Mr. Ponder pointed out above, in this case, it doesn't work as well as it should in order to be a rule. Yes, rules will have exceptions, but if the "exceptions" are numerous, then the rule is useless or misleading. We need to take the time to think about things for ourselves and see if they really work or not. Phonics is great and, in my opinion, the best way to read, but we have to make sure our rules really work!

The last part of the I before E rule works, though. It can be successfully tested. Academic Associate students are aware that EI and IE make several different sounds, including the long A sound. They also know which two sounds are by far the most common and so they know to try them first when approaching an unrecognized word. Academic Associate students never guess at words but always sound them out, trying the different possible sounds until they find the correct one. Then that word is underlined in their minds. They will know the right sound the next time they see the word!

Sign up for our comprehensive Reading Course now!

Recent Articles

  1. Shadow Chaser by Christy Barritt

    Jun 20, 24 05:06 PM

    Shadow Chaser Book 2 of The Shadow Agency by Christy Barritt As with most of Christy Barritt’s books, the action starts on the first page. Emily awakens

    Read More

  2. Target For Terror by Laura Scott

    Jun 17, 24 12:02 PM

    Target For Terror Book 1 of Security Specialists, Inc. by Laura Scott I started this book on my lunch break—a big mistake. It was hard to put this page-turner

    Read More

  3. The Facility by Eliza Green

    Jun 07, 24 11:57 AM

    The Facility is an interesting teenage dystopian story. Although we occasionally see things from a different character’s perspective, the main character

    Read More

Solo Build It!