i Before e Except After c – the Height of Weird Science

i Before e Except After c?

I was trying to teach my seven year old how to spell some words, when I came to an ie word, and hauled out the old “i before e” mantra. But hold on – what about height? Or weird? or science? Looking into it a little more, it’s an appallingly bad rule. I mean it obviously doesn’t apply to:

  • Weighing ancient glaciers
  • Seized counterfeit protein
  • Forfeited beige receipts
  • Feisty freight fanciers
  • Cueing canoeing concierge
  • Efficient leisure society
  • Codeine caffeine steins
  • Neither either neighbour
  • Foreign sovereign reigns
  • Reinforced seismic sleighs
  • Heist feint sleight
  • Eight heifer species
  • Albeit abseil┬ásurveillance
  • Weird science heights

With so many exceptions, it makes you wonder why anyone bothers with the i before e rule at all?

And when my son was trying to figure out how to pronounce the word – he didn’t have a hope. Have you ever noticed how many different ways ei or ie is pronounced?

“A” – weigh, eight

“EE” (long e) – seize, protein

“E” (short e) – heifer, efficient

“EAR” – weird

“II” (long i) – science

“I” (short i) – counterfeit

“EE ER” – concierge, fancier


So, with each different pronunciation of “ie” and “ei” I give you the following:


I before E, except after C, unless eight weird concierges seize counterfeit heifer science.


So much respect to anyone learning English as a second language.



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