Writing Mini-Lessons: The Truth about I before E

Have any of you memorized the rhyme “i before e, except after c” to help you improve your spelling? If so, you may have felt betrayed by the e before i in words like neither, their, and weird, where there is not a c in sight and nothing “sounds like a as in neighbor and weigh.” The truth about i before e is that it is more of a generalization than a hard and fast spelling rule. It is true that in English spelling, we usually write ie, and after a c that sounds like an s, it’ll be ei, not ie. However, there are a large number of exceptions to the “i before e, except after c” rule.

In general:
Write i before e, except after a soft c that sounds like an s.

Examples of ei after a soft c:

ceiling conceited conceive deceive
perceive receipt receive

Note: Watch out for ancient, species, and financier.

Some Other Words That Put E before I:

atheist feign lei seizure
being foreign leisure sheik
beige forfeit neighbor skein
deity Frankenstein neither sleigh
caffeine freight peignoir stein
counterfeit heifer protein surveillance
deign heigh-ho reign their
eider height rein veil
eidolon heinous reindeer vein
either heir seismic weigh
eight heiress seismology weight
Einstein heist seize weird