I ran across someone who said that it was wrong to teach the "i before e except after c" rule, because it was wrong more often that it was right. Is that true?
That depends on how the rule is taught. I was taught "i before e except after c and when the sound is ay as in neighbor and weigh and when cie makes a 'she/sheh' sound".
I did a search on words containing 'ie' at allwords. I used the concise dictionary results (to save time) and threw out multiple forms of the same word when I encountered them. The search on 'ie' words returned 132 words. Of those words, 120/132 (91%) conformed to the bare 'i before e except after c' rule. The 12 exceptions were:
Depending on one's pronunciation, the first 9 exceptions have a 'cie' combination that is pronounced 'sheh/she'. If this exception is taught, the compliance rate becomes 129/132 (97%). The second group of exceptions contains two words in which i and e fall in different syllables. Since this rule is for diphthongs, these are not really exceptions. If one throws them out, one has a compliance rate of 129/130 (99%). The only real exception is 'financier'.
I also did a search for 'ei' words. This search returned 47 words, with 9/47 (19%) complying with the bare rule. The 38 exceptions were:
The first group of 15 exceptions is covered under the �a� sound as in neighbor or weigh exception. When these 15 are added to the initial 9, the group that complies becomes 24/47 (51%). The second group contains exceptions that are not really exceptions, because of the different syllable exemption. When those are removed, we are left with 24/38 (63%). The remaining 14 exceptions are real.
When the two searches are combined, we start with a compliance rate of 129/179 (72%). This is pretty good for the bare rule, giving a speller over a 70% chance of being correct. When we throw out the 11 words in which the i and e fall into different syllables, the result becomes 129/168 (76%). If we add the 'sh' exception and the 'a' exception, the compliance rate jumps to 153/168 (91%). It would appear that the 'i before e' rule, when taught properly, is very useful and works approximately 90% of the time. The research was limited, but it tends to support the rule.
Categories: Grammar Topics