We all know the rule: "I before E, except after C..." except... uh... something. Good news: You can forget everything except the "I before E" part. And even that will only help you guess correctly three times out of four.
Photo by Laura Blankenship.
Statistics student Nathan Cunningham looked for evidence to back up the rule in a list of 350,000 English words, the Washington Post reports. The "I before E" rule applied about 75 per cent of the time — but that was true whether or not a C was involved.
If you're looking for an exception to the rule, it isn't C, it's W. (Need a mnemonic? Just tell yourself: That's weird.) E comes before I about 70 per cent of the time after a W. And your chances are 50/50 after a J. But most of the time, "I before E" is the rule that gives you the best odds.