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Dotting the Is and Crossing the Es

Learn about the old spelling lesson: I before E except after C

Dotting the Is and Crossing the Es

English can be a tricky language to learn at the best of times. From ‘their,’ to ‘there’ to ‘they’re’, it can leave even the best teachers confused. Today, we’re going to help you to learn one basic technique when it comes to spelling certain words with a challenging structure.

One method that was popular in teaching until a few years ago, was the ‘I before E rule.’ This practice helped learners understand the order of the letters containing Is and Es. It has since become less popular, but for today’s purposes, we’re going to revisit it.     

The basic rule for spelling the following words goes like this. I before E, except after C, unless it sounds like an A. 

I before E 

Together, we are going to run through a few examples of words where the letter I comes before the letter E.


  • There is a belief that there is a creature called the Loch Ness Monster.
  • The chocolate cake I baked today was a masterpiece.
  • Answering any emails is one of my responsibilities.
  • It was a relief that it didn’t rain on Sunday. 


Except after C

Now that we have explored a couple of words that contain ‘ie,’ let’s now have a look at words that contain the letters ‘cei.’ 


  • Would you like me to print your receipt? 
  • We have received your letter. 
  • I would love to change the colour of the ceiling.    

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Unless it sounds like an A

In the final stage of this exercise, we will have a look at the last part of the phrase, words that use ‘ei’ but sound like A. 


  • To bake the cake, we need to weigh the ingredients first.
  • A spider has eight legs. 
  • Our neighbours moved in next door last week. 

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We hope that you have enjoyed our blog and will have fun using the I Before E rhyme, when it comes to day to day spelling.   

If you'd like to expand on your knowledge of English, you can read more about our schools here! We have schools across the UK and Ireland, each providing high quality English education experiences to ensure the right fit for each student. Our London school in historic Greenwich is conveniently placed making it easy to visit a variety of places. Sunny Eastbourne offers a quieter experience near the sea for those who prefer to get away from the city and a beautiful mansion school. Finally our Dublin school is very close to classic attractions like the Dublin Spire in the middle of Ireland’s vibrant capital.