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British Schools Stop Teaching the 'I Before E' Rule

By Hannah Tennant-Moore |

spelling There are few American adults who couldn’t recite the “i before e” spelling rule that was drilled into our heads as kids. But if American classrooms go the way of the Brits, our own kids may look at us like we’re nuts if we recite the popular spelling adage:

“I before e except after c, and when sounds like ay, as in neighbor or weigh.”

It is a bit of a mouthful. And there are confusing exceptions, such as protein, seizure, leisure. Still, I think the British government is selling kids short by telling teachers to stop teaching the “i before e” rule.

In elementary school, I loved having rules in my head while I was writing–it gave spelling the neat precision of math. As long as you followed the right steps, you couldn’t make a mistake.

Granted, I am, even today, a huge dork (which is probably crystal clear by now); my best friend just gave me the book “Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies” for my birthday. But even less grammar-minded kids are more than capable of learning a spelling rule, and then memorizing exceptions to that rule. In a text and instant message-dominated era, the classroom should remain a bastion of strict spelling rules for kids.

Or am I’m being an old grouch?

Photo: Parentdish

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Hannah Tennant-Moore

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0 thoughts on “British Schools Stop Teaching the 'I Before E' Rule

  1. PlumbLucky says:

    I wonder what they’ll stop teaching next…that 2+3=5? I always remember that rule, along with the added line of “…and we aren’t weird” and a few other blurps to make up for the exceptions.

  2. Marj says:

    That is weird. I love language, and hate math, so I’m one of those grammar snobs. I don’t give people crap about it though as long as they lay off my terrible math skills. Here’s a variant my brother taught me. Yay – grammar jokes!

    I before E except after C
    And in such cases as Neighbor and Weigh
    On Tuesdays, and Thursdays
    And all through the month of May
    And you’ll be wrong, no matter what you say.

  3. Kaz says:

    it’d be useful if it worked…

    “Let neither financier inveigle the sheikh into seizing either species of weird leisure.”

  4. ChiLaura says:

    Wow, Hannah, for once I actually agree with you! I *still* use the “i before e” rule; regarding the exceptions, when something doesn’t look right, I can just tell. I’m sad to see this one go.

  5. Dad says:

    I think it is easier just to teach kids spelling than remember a rule with over a dozen exceptions.

  6. kns says:

    We always learned it as “i before e, except after c, or when sounded like ‘a’ as in neighbor or weigh. either, neither, weird and seize are exceptions if you please”. seems to cover most of the bases.

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