Editing for Grammarphobes: Exceptions


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

I before E, except after C is probably the most famous spelling rule in the English language. We all can recite it, usually in the sing-song, child-like way we learned it, but do you remember the exceptions?

Yes, neighbor and weigh, which sometimes are added at the end of the mnemonic device. 

Any others?

Well, as it turns out, there are many. I found an article by Bob Cunningham, “Exceptions to the rule ‘I before E except after C,’” on the alt.usage.english newsgroup website years back. Here are some of the words Cunningham mentioned.


Rules are interesting, aren’t they? As soon as one is formalized, there is always an exception.

EFG Digest

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These five books are on my desk at all times. Maybe they'll help you as well.

The Associated Press Stylebook, 2016 edition
The Chicago Manual of Style
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition
The Bugaboo Review: A lighthearted guide to exterminating confusion about words, spelling, and grammar


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


Anonymous said…
Conscience isn't an exception to that rule. :)
Anonymous said…
Oops... Actually, it IS an exception, I before E after C. Silly me. :)
R. Doug Wicker said…
I was taught, "I before E except after C, or when sounding as A, as in Neighbor or Weigh."

So, that using that rhyme, Beige, Heinous, Veil, Vein, Weight, Heir all fit leaving Conscience, Foreign, and Weird as the only exceptions on the list.

Other exceptions off the top of my head would be:

Their, Feisty, Science, Efficient, Caffeine.

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