Mary Norris and Jane Caro: Why does ‘i’ come before ‘e’, except after ‘c’?

Mary Norris and Jane Caro: Why does 'i' come before 'e', except after 'c'?

Word nerds – this one’s for you. The New Yorker is famed as a haven for the hardcore; a literary institution with a mythically meticulous devotion to grammar and its rules for use.

Copy editor and grammar guru Mary Norris has been at the heart of The New Yorker’s cherished linguistic traditions for more than thirty years. Her latest book Between You & Me reveals her joy in words and language – with insights and incitements on punctuation, emoticons, swear words and comma splices, as well as correspondences with notable contributors to the magazine. She describes editing a story: ‘First we get the rocks out, Alice. Then we get the pebbles out. Then we get the sand out, and the writer’s voice rises. No harm done.’

Hear from this sage of the page – onstage with award-winning advertising copywriter, author and language buff Jane Caro, a woman whose career has been driven by a passion for words and the connections they create between people and ideas.

They discuss history and change at The New Yorker and reflect on Norris’s lifetime of intimacy with words. Find out what’s lurking in Norris’s tranche of behind-the-scenes gossip – and soak up her deep affection for writing as a tool – as we pursue the last word on good grammar.


Portrait of Mary Norris

Mary Norris

Mary Norris has spent more than three decades as a copy editor at The New Yorker, where she’s worked with such celebrated writers as Philip Roth, Pauline Kael and George Saunders. Norris’s love of language led her to write Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, a manual for untangling the most vexing spelling, punctuation and usage quandaries in English.

Portrait of Jane Caro

Jane Caro

Jane Caro is an author, novelist, speaker, broadcaster, columnist, advertising writer and media and social commentator. She has published seven books, including two novels about Elizabeth Tudor. Her memoir, Plain Speaking Jane, was released in September 2015. She writes regular columns in the Sun Herald Sunday Life magazine, MT magazine and Mamamia Debrief Daily. She appears often in the media, including on the Gruen Transfer, Agony, Q&A, The Drum, Sunrise and Weekend Sunrise.

Listen to Mary Norris and Jane Caro: Why does ‘i’ come before ‘e’, except after ‘c’?