I before E except after C and in words like neighbor and weigh.
That was the rule I learned way back when, but it’s a big fat lie. When I first realized the “rule” was a falsehood perpetuated by teachers I had trusted, I was disillusioned.
It was back in 7th or 8th grade. A classmate spelled the word ‘weird’ with an E before the I. After I corrected him, he insisted he was right and we ended up going to the dictionary. Sure enough, ‘weird’ was the correct spelling.
How could this be? The letter C does not appear anywhere in the word and, at least the way I’ve heard it pronounced, the word is nothing like ‘neighbor’ or ‘weigh’. My whole world was turned upside down. Could the dictionary be wrong? Or was the word ‘weird’ spelled that way because, well, it was weird?
Of course, now I know there are many other exceptions. Neither, forfeit, leisure, and seize, for some examples.
I guess the “rule” (if there even is such a thing) should be:
I before E except when E comes before I.