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British schools told to scrap 'i before e'

June 21, 2009 at 1:35 AM

LONDON, June 21 (UPI) -- British elementary schools have been advised to scrap one of the most venerable rules in English spelling: "I before e except after c."

The word was given this week in a National Strategies document, "Support for Spelling." The 124-page document includes a lot of words of wisdom for teachers working with young children, like using puns to teach the distinction between pair and pear.

The document has harsh words for the "i before e" rule.

"The i before e rule is not worth teaching," it said. "It applies only to words in which the ie or ei stands for a clear ee sound. Unless this is known, words such as sufficient and veil look like exceptions. There are so few words where the ei spelling for the ee sounds follows the letter c that it is easier to learn the specific words."

Masha Bell, a campaigner for simplified spelling, said there are other more useful guides, like "one collar, two socks" to teach the spelling of necessary. But she said children are being asked "to fill their heads with this rubbish" instead of being taught English with sensible spelling.

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