Spelling: I before e

BizWritingTip reader: “I learned the rule ‘I before e except after c’ many years ago. A colleague of mine stated there are exceptions to this rule, and I am curious as to what words those would be. Can you give me an example when ‘i’ can be used before the ‘e’? Is there a rule that will remind me?”

BizWritingTip response: I also remember learning this rhyme years ago. But there are many exceptions to the rule: beige, codeine, deify, deity, deign, dreidel, eider, eight, feign, feint, feisty, foreign, freight, heifer, heigh-ho, heinous, heir, heist, neigh, neighbour, peignoir, rein, Rottweiler, science, seine, seismic, seize, sheik, society, sovereign, surfeit, their, veil, vein, weight, and weir.

Unfortunately, you were not taught the last few words of the rhyme:

” i before e, except after c,

or when sounded like ‘a’
as in neighbor and weigh.”

But there are even exceptions to this rule: seize and seizure and also leisureweirdheighteitherforfeit, and neither.

Frankly, instead of trying to defend the guideline — “i before e except after c” — why don’t we all agree that it’s a dumb rule and just let it go?