A distasteful sensation was gnawing at a rookie copy editor in a large advertising agency. It came from what his copy chief was doing every day. The copy chief was constantly taking a piece of paper from his breast pocket, peeking at it, then putting it back.
One day, the newcomer managed a look at the slip of paper. It read: “I before E except after C.”
The copy chief was always worrying about possible misspellings in the documents his subordinates turned in. Most misspellings happen when letters E and I come together. So, whenever he found words like “receive” in the paper, he was reciting the mnemonic rhyme, “I before E except after C” in his head.
While doing this all day for every paper he received from his subordinates, he would sometimes get confused, and lose confidence in his memory of the mnemonic rhyme. It was instilled in him by his parents in his childhood. Still, he would not be confident of remembering it correctly; wasn’t it“E before I except after C.”, instead of “I before E except after C.”? In that case, the correct spelling should be “recieve”, not “receive”, shouldn’t it? Every time he got uneasy about it, he would consult the piece of paper in his breast pocket to confirm his memory of the mnemonic rhyme, and then check copies from his subordinates. He was spending his time in his office repeating this process all day.