Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

i before e?

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Spotted on the front page of the online Telegraph today:

Mass cover-up of sexual abuse by Catholic preists

Preists? That should, of course, be ‘priests’.

This glaring error opens a very tricky can of spelling worms. The old rule, ‘i before e except after c’, does, of course, apply in the case of ‘priests’. But what about words like ‘weird’ (appropriately enough), which drive a coach and horses through the rule, as do these:

  • Neighbour
  • Weigh
  • Sleigh
  • Leisure
  • Height
  • Neither
  • Seize
  • Protein
  • Caffeine

Oxford Dictionaries explains the ins and outs.

Unfortunately, some spellings evade the rules and just have to be memorised (or simply checked in a dictionary).

Wordwatching

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Written by Wordwatch

26/11/2009 at 11:45 am

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