Conversing with the teacher next door yesterday, she told me a story about one of her sophomores. She uses the SAT question of the day as her bell work, and one of her students questioned the spelling of the word “their.” He said it should be t-h-i-e-r. When she said he was wrong, he was flabbergasted; he’d been spelling it wrong for years.
He then invoked the “i before e” rule. You know, “I before e, except after c.” Very, very common English spelling rule.
Ms. A replied that the rule only applied in words with a C in them.
The student was befuddled. Listening to her story, so was I. It was one of those critical moments in one’s life when the realization occurs that a piece of knowledge has been lacking. This happens, for example, when you realize the D in the Disney logo is, in fact, a D, since you learn to recognize it before you can read, or that Ring Around the Rosie is actually about dying of the plague.
In this instance, I learned that the i-before-e rule is not multiple parts, as I always assumed it was.
“I before E” fits in words like believe, fierce, and friend, but not their, weird, piece, seize, feisty, or neighbor.
Therefore, the rule only truly applies to words with the vowel combo FOLLOWING a C, like deceive, ceiling, or receipt.
Unless the word is species, science, or sufficient.
I spent a long time staring at Ms. A as I tried to work this out in my head. The moral of the story is that the rule stinks, and should probably be dropped from our vernacular. Happy Halloween.