Me thinks 2

August 21, 2008

Ken Smith advocates accepting common spelling errors by undergraduates. Will they have to remember lists of permitted words to misspell? If one wishes to take the permissive route, why not also accept common errors in arithmetic, chemistry, physics and other subjects?

It is the job of educators to teach accuracy, precision and correctness, not sloppiness. My overseas students at Imperial College London who have been taught non-permissively in places such as Singapore can manage English spelling far better than can home students.

Spelling affects meaning and pronunciation, as in matting/mating/, raped/rapped/rapt/wrapt/wrapped and effect/affect. Smith would accept twelth for twelfth, Febuary for February; can he not hear the difference? Does he wish to promote bad pronunciations, too?

He wrote that leisure, neighbour and foreign all break the i before e rule, so he does not know the full version, for which there are very few exceptions: "i before e except after c if the vowel-sound rhymes with bee". Accurate spelling is essential, not optional.

Bernard Lamb, President of the Queen's English Society.

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