Origin of phrase/rule

What is the origin, and why is the following rule needed; what prompted its genisis?

‘‘use i before e , except after c’’.

Thank you for your assistance.


Ken Shreve, Sr.

Hi Ken

I have no idea where or when this rhyme originated, but I’m sure the intention was to provide a mnemonic device to help people with spelling. Maybe someone else will be able to come up with information about origin.

The version I learned as a kid was this:

As I’m sure you know, there are lots of exceptions to this “rule”, so exactly how useful it might be as an aid for correct spelling is debatable. However, I personally think these devices can be helpful as long as people keep in mind that they are guidelines and not ironclad rules.

I lived in Germany for a long time, and I remember that one of my biggest problems with spelling in German was whether I had to write ‘ie’ or ‘ei’. Now, my German friends were amazed that I should find this difficult. Nevertheless, it was a constant stumbling block for me – until I came up with my own little mnemonic device. Afterwards I basically never had a problem with ie vs ei in German again.

Thank you, Amy. So nice of you to respond! I wonder, in the bigger scheme of sacred creation, why there has to even be two different uses/spellings of words, when they sound the same. Why spell like sounding words, two different ways? Oh well, my little brain shouldn’t be allowed to ponder such questions. Have a great day, Amy!