Monday, January 21, 2013
Proper spelling: Luv it or h8 it?
Posted by Jennifer Lamont Leo
Years ago someone (me, perhaps?) gave my husband a sweatshirt that says, "Bad spellers of the world, untie!" On the flip side, this past Christmas I received a tee shirt that announces to the world, "I am silently correcting your grammar." The slogans may be cringe-worthy, but they are also accurate.
Yes, it's true. I'm in a mixed marriage. Can a--um--casual speller and a grammar nerd ever find true love and happiness together?
Since today marks 25 years since the day we met, and we've been together ever since (okay, full disclosure: we did break up once for twenty minutes--the longest twenty minutes of my life-- and that bleak incident had nothing whatsoever to do with spelling), I'd say YES, true love and happiness between grammatical opposites is definitely possible. You just need a sense of humor and a heaping helping of mutual patience and understanding.
Casual Speller recently demonstrated his understanding of my fanatical quest for proper spelling, even though he doesn't happen to share it, by showing me this item in The Week magazine:
"Australia: Where even the teachers can't spell" by Kevin Donnelly was originally published in The Australian. I wasn't able to locate the full original article online, but the digest version is viewable online to subscribers at The Week. In case you're not a subscriber, here is the snippet that caught my eye:
"In a recent survey, more than 40 percent of parents said their kids' teachers had sent home comments or assignments that were misspelled or ungrammatical or, worst of all, written in text-message style, using '18r' for 'later' and 'U' for 'you.' But this appalling state of affairs is not the teachers' fault--nobody ever required them to learn how to spell. They came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, when progressive theorists were [unconcerned about] teaching proper English. The only time they studied the mechanics of language was when they learned a foreign language. Now we are all paying the price. . . . The teaching of English has been 'dumbed down,' and it's making Australia look dumb.'"
(A quick online search revealed that Kevin Donnelly is director of the Education Standards Institute, so naturally he'd take an interest in the subject. I removed a few politically charged sentences so that we could focus on the topic without getting sidetracked into politics.)
What do you think? Have the standards of spelling fallen, and if so, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Does poor spelling make someone look "dumb," as Mr. Donnelly asserts? Or does striving for perfect spelling make someone seem uptight or inflexible or (heaven help us) uncool?
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