A word's worth

3rd July 2009 at 01:00

The Government in England is right to advise against teaching the rule "I before e except after c when the sound is ee". It is useless not only because it applies to just seven words (ceiling, conceive, conceit, deceive, deceit, perceive, receive) and has eight exceptions (receipt, protein, codeine, caffeine, seize, sheikh, weir, weird).

The spelling of the "ee" sound itself is also very difficult, because it occurs in 455 common English words and is totally irregular. It is the second biggest English spelling problem - beaten only by consonant doubling.

Masha Bell, independent literacy researcher and author of `Understanding English Spelling' and `Learning to Read'.

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