Here is a standard mnemonic rhyme for improving one's spelling of English words - in fact it's almost the only rule that exists governing English spelling!

i before e - except after c
or when sounding like a as in neighbour and weigh

Thus for example the words 'die', 'pieces' and 'laddie' use ie, while 'ceiling', 'deceive' and 'receipt' use the reverse ei (as do the a-sounding 'deity' and 'freight').

A new mnemonic by Peter Hobbs illustrates how "seize" is a rare exception to the rule, where unlike in the standard "siege", one applies the unexpected!

" ie. I lay siege before and I seize after! "

According to Peter two other exceptions are also easy to recall:

(1) "counterfeit" (which doesn't run true to form!)
and (2) "weird" (which is weird!)...

Here's a sentence e-mailed by Barbara D.Martin (4/01) that contains nearly all of the exceptions in one sentence:

"Neither ancient foreign sheikh seized the weird heights."

On a humorous note, Jennifer Morrow suggests the following mnemonic for the difference between desert (a dry barren region) and dessert (a pudding):

"One or Two S's? A desert has one but a dessert has two because you always want two desserts!"

A separate page details several interesting spelling aids suggested by various site visitors recently.


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