A spell of absurd arguments 2

September 4, 2008

I do realise that it has been the silly season, but the time has come to ask why Times Higher Education has published an article and two letters on the English spelling system written by a criminologist, Ken Smith, from Bucks New University.

If Smith's original article ("Just spell it like it is", 7 August) had been an answer in an undergraduate linguistics exam, it would have failed because no coherent principles were applied to the topic. Instead, Smith produced a series of ad hoc, eclectic and weakly connected suggestions. Little or no knowledge was displayed of the literature on the English spelling system, spelling reform or lexicography.

Does it matter that Times Higher Education has published poorly founded suggestions by a non-specialist? Actually, it does. The statement: "A leading academic has said that bad spelling of common words in the English language should be accepted rather than corrected" can be read at www.raisingkids.co.uk.

If I write a few uninformed thoughts off the top of my head on the subject of criminology, will Times Higher Education also publish them?

Paul Seedhouse, Professor of educational and applied linguistics, Newcastle University.

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