Vox pop – September 2009

Do we still need ‘correct’ spelling?

Martin Lee

It’s preferable, but we probably need mutual tolerance of shortcomings more.

John Simmons

I’m forever saying in workshops “don’t worry, this isn’t about spelling”. And I don’t think writing is about spelling. On the other hand, if I read a piece of writing that’s full of spelling mistakes, I think less of the writing. Can’t help it.

So, although spelling can be difficult, it can also be fascinating and fun. I enjoy the difficulty of English spelling and I like it when the idiosyncracies of the spelling point me towards the word’s origin in another language.

Rob Self-Pierson


Jim Davies, totalcontent

Occasionally I think phonetic spelling might be the way to go – it would certainly make life easier for people learning English. But if you got rid of all the quirks and arcane rules, the opportunities for pedantry would be severely limited.

Nick Asbury

Language, by definition, involves accepting a shared set of rules. At some point, we all agreed to call a tree a tree, a rock a rock, and a blancmange a blancmange. Otherwise conversations would never get anywhere – especially ones involving blancmange. The same goes for written language. If we all agree to spell rock, tree and blancmange a certain way, it makes understanding each other a lot easier. Of course, out of sheer good manners, we shouldn’t jump down each other’s throats if we make the horrendous mistake of ordering ‘blamonge’ for pudding. But that’s not the same as getting rid of the rule altogether.

Roger Horberry

What’s the alternative? Some sort of “Down wiv Skool” lexical anarchy? Come to think of it, count me in.

Jamie Jauncey

The trouble with ‘incorrect’ spelling is that it runs the risk of clouding true meaning. If the word is disfigured the etymological root may get lost and so it becomes harder to use the word in the way it was originally and precisely intended. One of the glories of English, of course, is that its huge vocabulary enables us to use words with great precision.

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