Back in school, we had a lot of routine drills in English course. Basically, it comes down to the simple fact that English spelling is hard to learn and the principles too often too convoluted to recall for most learners of the language.
It is difficult for new students to learn the rules, and it is difficult too for adults who’ve already heard them to recall them. So we attempt to create a few consistent, “general” rules.
Of course, there are violations of the rule. A Wikipedia article on the principle lists out words which violate both areas of the rule at the same time. “cheiromancies”, “eigenfrequencies”, “obeisancies”, “oneiromancies”. Those are not words we use frequently, so perhaps a guideline should not be enforced.
The rule also rules out common words, such as “height”, “science,” and “their”. Exceptions like “they’re,” “heir,” and “sleigh,” do not help to explain “species” or “seize.”
The rule improves with additional specification. Native English speakers likely heard it as:
I before E except after C,
Or when sounded as “a”
As in “neighbour”.
We’ll subsequently have accounted for a range of exceptions. Words like “weird” and “ancient” all contradict the principle.
And here are more thoughts, don’t use it to for titles or borrowings from foreign languages; don’t apply it to words from the Latin root “sci” (conscience, prescient, omniscient).
If these contradictions start to confuse, consider the rule’s existence in the first place. In the 19th century textbooks were probably a kind of new invention. They allowed people to learn with no direct access to experts. Teachers tasked with propagating the English language established systems to explain usage.
I before E is most likely about as overall a rule of English spelling. The recognisable school mnemonic is also, for most people a singular, spelling rule,”
Here’s something. A University of Warwick statistician named Nathan Cunningham decided to examine that the i-before-e rule. He tested that against a list of 350,000 English words. “I” normally come before “E”. With some three-quarters of all words with either an “ie” or an “ei” pair, the proper spelling is “ie,” as the rule says it ought to be.
Wikipedia provides us a limited selection of words that violate the rules, in effect, however, the list of criminals is much larger.
The Washington Post actually has a fantastic article on this subject that is worth reading.
Good spellers often have good visual memories about the way words behave and look. Having a fantastic understanding of letter patterns and word conventions you can even employ other spelling ideas like memory tricks and breaking up syllables.
Whilst the majority of the time good English practitioners do not realise they’re following a punctuation rule, they frequently just “know” when the spelling is incorrect.
Again, consider the words below that contain ie or ei after the c.
Ancient, efficient, science, society, capture, receipt, receive, deceive, ceiling.
So it turns out we do not always use ei after c either.
The -cei- phrases have various sounds. These words have a “sh” sound: historical, efficient, whilst these have an “s” sound: society, science, capture
Rules, hard to explain and nearly always with exceptions!
Perhaps we could amend the spelling rule to “I before e except after c if it’s a long “ee” sound” or “I before e so long as the word rhymes with tree.”
Spelling is learned by writing, quoting spelling rules or stating letters out loud seemingly complicates things. All part of learning to speak proper.
Source: Speak Proper Blog