Saturday, 9 August 2008

Spellings in English Language: To Spell or Not to Spell Correctly.

Spellings in English Language: To Spell or Not to Spell Correctly 
 (This write up was published in IATEFL newsletter VOICES. University of Kent, UK. September-October 2009. 210. ISSN: 1814-3830)
How to cite this article:
Barad, D. P. (2009). Spellings in English Language: To Spell or Not to Spell Correctly. (A. Schwetlick, Ed.) VOICES (210), 11.
Barad, D. P. "Spellings in English Language: To Spell or Not to Spell Correctly." VOICES 210 (2009): 11.

Language grows. It has accreting quality. It flows like river. It goes on changing its shape and flow in harmony with its levee. Change is the only permanent feature of language. Language which does not change with flux of time, gives up the ghost.
The Spelling is one of the vital components of a language. From time and again, like language, spellings of the language also undergo a change. From Geoffrey Chaucer – the father of English language – down the line, if you read writings of Shakespeare, Edmund Spencer, Milton, Dryden or any of the 18th, 19th century English literary hulks, you will find how modern English spellings were ‘misspelled’ by these great man of English letters.
If the history of English language tells us that language and its spellings can’t be static; it must constantly evolve to keep up with changing times and remain relevant; then why should Pundits of the language cling steadfastly to the correctness of spelling?  
Ken Smith (Rebecca Atwood 2008, BBC 2008), lecturer at the Bucks New University in Britain has added fuel to the debate over ‘to spell or not to spell correctly’. “Don't let students' howlers drive you mad, says Ken Smith. Accept their most common mistakes as variant spellings ... and relax.” He further argues that “…instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea. University teachers should simply accept as variant spelling those words our students most commonly misspell”. Several of British English spellings are already accepted as American variants and people have easily assimilated them in their daily usage. Thanks to Bill Gates and MS Office. ‘U’ is omitted from ‘colour’, ‘favour’, ‘endeavour’ etc. This software programme has changed ‘programme’ to ‘program’, ‘judgement’ to ‘judgment’. Ken Smith asks, “The spelling of the word "judgement", for example, is now widely accepted as a variant of "judgment", so why can't "truely" be accepted as a variant spelling of "truly"?” To begin with, he listed top 10 spellings of simple words which are commonly misspelled by the students.
Of course, such proposals have been made in the past. The dawn of SMS-text messaging turned many students into spelling Neanderthals as phrases such as "wot r u doin 2nite?" became socially, if not academically, acceptable.
Despite Smith's suggestion, language pundits are unconvinced. John Simpson  (Luke Baker 2008), the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, says rules are rules and they are there for good reason. "There are enormous advantages in having a coherent system of spelling," he told the Times newspaper. He added, "It makes it easier to communicate. Maybe during a learning phase there is some scope for error, but I would hope that by the time people get to university they have learnt to spell correctly."
But still the point is: Is it really necessary to spell correctly to fulfill basic function of language – which is to ‘communicate’? If we can communicate without correct spellings, is it essential to learn how to spell correctly? If you have a million dolor (check meaning of this word) doubt regarding how to communicate without spelling correctly, read following paragraph (I originally saw this a few years ago as blog entries by Mark and Angel 2006):
Cna yuo raed tihs?  Suteids sohw taht olny aoubt 55 prcenet of plepoe can (atculley trheer is no scuh sudty).  I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.  Tihs sohws us the phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid.  Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are in, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pclae.  The rset of the txet can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm.  Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but isntaed raeds the wrod as a wlohe.  Azanmig huh?  Yaeh and we awlyas tghuhot slpelnig was ipmorantt!
Yet even some of Britain's greatest wordsmiths have acknowledged it's a language with irritating quirkiness. Playwright George Bernard Shaw was fond of pointing out that the word "ghoti" could just as well be pronounced "fish" if you followed common pronunciation: 'gh' as in "tough," 'o' as in "women" and 'ti' as in "nation."
Isn’t Ken Smith’s idea worth accepting? Isn’t it the time to adopt humanistic approach and free student from the atrocities of spellings? Technology has changed the way we live and think. It has initiated change in the way we spell our spellings. Isn’t it a good idea to simplify obsolete and confusing spellings? Isn’t it an idea whose time has come?

Bad spelling 'should be accepted' . BBC News Online. 7 Aug 2008. n.pag. web. 4 July 2009. <>
Attwood, Rebecca. “Just spell it like it is”. 2007 TSL Education Ltd. 7 Aug 2008. n.pag. web. 4 July 2008. <>
Baker, Luke. “Spelling "truely atrosious," says academic”. Thomson Reuters 2009. 7 Aug. 2008. n.pag. web. 4 July. 2009. <>

Mark and Angel. “Can you read this?” 2006-2009 Marc and Angel Hack Life. 20 Nov. 2006. n.pag. web. 5 July. 2009. <>


Images of the cover page and write up:

IATEFL - VOICES front page

Write-up in VOICES-210


Response to this write up:

In the next issue of Voices, Jean Stocker questioned this:

This was my reply:
Dear Jean Stocker,
In reply to my write up "To Spell or Not to Spell Correctly" published in IATEFL newsletter VOICES. University of Kent, UK. September-October 2009, you asked following question n Voices Issue 211, Nov-Dec 2009.
The question was: "I would like to ask Dr Barad if he considers it acceptable to misspelt words in his own language, or, in fact, in any language?

First of all, i am sorry for this delay in reply. Today suddenly i found this issue and read the question and remembered that i have yet not replied.

Well, i have seen that spellings in my language ( that is Gujarati, spoken in Western state Gujarat of India) are quite often misspelt. In journalistic writings, no body cares for correctness of spellings. The functional and communicative aspect has become more important in spellings. So, by and large, people of my language have accepted several variants of spellings.
I have seen that, on social media, people do communicate without being careful about spellings. The auto-spell checkers in mobile phones changes spellings and people realize (see this 'Gmail', forcing me to write realize instead of realise. What can we do? :) ) the error after it is sent. Most are developing habit of proof reading after sending or when they receive reply. But the surprising fact is that they are able to communicate and so nobody cares about spellings.
What do you say about spellings in your language?

I would like to request scholars and researchers of Gujarati language to throw some more light on spellings in Gujarati.


  1. I think what u r talking maks sense but given a chance everyone wil creat a vocabulary of ones u think these idiolects can b understood when written. i feel there has to b a commenly accepted code.anyway thanks for the mindopner.

  2. Hi,Prof. Barad,
    It's good to read your topic on the spelling issue.The points raised by you are to be seriously taken by pundits like us.What are we going to teach to our students,if we don't have a standard code or its systems including morphology/lexicon rules?We are wrong to illustrate the writers' creative use of language and move away from the real issue of correct spelling of words.The changes are welcomed but after the approval of the respective speech community,I think.Please accept the changes only when they are approved by respective communities,not by some authors or innovators of SMS messages.Bye.

  3. Hi sir, its Jay Mehta (no variations in these words plz....!)
    I've read ur thought-provoking write up bt i m a bit baffled about this issue. at one side, I feel that understanding of sense is far more imp. than the spelings. Spellings, afterall are just the symbols we've given to ojects. To use Derrida's jargon, words have "FREE PLAY".
    The other side of the coin is the threat expresed here by someone, - the possibility of anarchy in language. I think those variations of spellings should be allowed which are accepted widely by the mass. I welcome creative comments on my view. Thanks.

  4. Dear Dilip,
    There is no sense in your talking because
    1) the students must have the knowledge of correct spellings otherwise they should not understand the meaning of THE PARAGRAPH.
    2)Illusive sight makes us read THE PARAGRAPH without dificulties but what about the new learners?
    3)The teachers will find the correct meanings of the incorrect spellings of THE PARAGRAPH but what about the beginners of the foreign language?
    4)Would any new learner find the correct meaning of THE PARAGRAPH using the dictionary?
    5)Let the crative writers use the language in their own ways to amuse us but as a teacher it is our duty to compel our students to spell correctly only to avoid confusion.

  5. Hi!Sir,I'm Harshit.I've read your topic on spelling correstion and also raed other comments.Even I also think that spelling correction should be necessary.If a person speaks fluent in English bue can't spell right,is worthless of English.One can't spell all words corrctly,but one should try to spell correctly.Nowadays English users carelessly neglect spelling correction.

  6. If you can spell, getting your meaning across is usually much easier, but being a good speller doesn't necessarily mean you know how to get your message across...

  7. The aim is to communicate. Correct spelling may help, but is not an aim in itself. Errors are not likely to cause anarchy, really!

    Being a bad speler does not mean you cannot get your message akross.

    A good online dictionary also allows words to be found according to their sound (so for instance fisikl would find physical).

    It is great to have a language unfettered by rules, where you can verb a noun and noun a verb, and where you can invent a new word if you want to. As soon as you use if to communicate to someone, it is valid (though it might take a while to get into wordbooks). Aaargh.


  8. Hi sir,its Chitra.I have read ur topic "Spellings in english language:To spell or not to spell correctly." Yes sir i agree that we should spell correctly but the problem is we are used to use the language of SMS so in hurry we use short forms of some words which are already accepted by the society.I think change is the order of nature and this SMS language is also a change and this change is happily accepted by us,but i know that it also affects on the essence of the english language.

  9. Hello sir,I have alraedy given one comment on this blog but still I want to add something.Sir According to me, Spelling should be spelt correctly beacause one is familiar with those words which one uses in his daily routine but when one comes across of those words which are known but can not make any sense is worthless.Today,Nishant was discussing about the sound.He said that sound makes the sense.But what makes the sound?That is spelling.For exa.the spelling of 'can'is written in the sameway but if you find the spelling of 'can' like 'cna' then you have to think about it a lot.When our friends send us any message in this way,at that time we think a lot and sometimes we said that what they have written.So,We should not accept this language of sms .And one should spell correct spelling.

  10. Hi,sir i am Ankit.I have read your article on "To spell or not to spell correctly".I think that one should not spell correctly because nowadays pronounciation is neccesary not the written language in sense of medical and engeenring students.there is exception in student of literature.For exa.psychology in this word p remains salient,if we write sychology instead of the first one then even people can understand this word easily.So we should accept this language so that there will be no difficulty in remembering this long spellings and generally we are habited the word can be written as can speake.

  11. Hi,sir I am sneha dave. I have read your artical on "TO SPELL OR NOT TO SPELL". According to me true spelling is very importants. if there
    is any mistake in spelling by it's pronunciation we can understand
    its meaning. For ex. "conclusion" and "conclution". engineering
    students do not give more importants to spelling. In conclusion they
    use "tion" insted of "sion". But sometime pronunciation do mistake
    such as "to" or "too". If we use "to" instesd of "too" so its meaning
    become chainge. So inshort, true spelling is important.

  12. In this modern time it is necessary to change but we should keep in mind the old rules and spell or not to spell is controversial point of debate.this acceptable for those people who know english basically but what about the new learner?techonology comes with revolution.sms,email have created novelty in spelling but the language which we use in sms and email, is not language of literature and not a language of any stream but the language of daily life and official language where we have to convey message it is o.k. for sms and email but not in educational purpose.thank you

  13. Hi sir i m vishakha,i m real impressed by ur artical.I m also agree with u,if some one knows right spelling then only he can know thats wrong one.Using sms language its ok only with sms but not with uni.exams.sir just now i m also suffring same kind of thing becoz i save my friend name as "(friend name) CHOR"at first sight v understand guj. meaning but actually i have written "shihor" not guj. meanig-"chor",i think same kind of thing will happen.I think u Understand what i want to say.
    Thank you

  14. Hi sir this is mital.I have read your paragraph ''TO spell or not to spell correctly''I am also agree with you that all should spell corretly.If everyone spell in theie own manner and understanding than it will be difficult to understand their idea and thought. Being the student of literture we should not faver to spell incorrectly.ok Thanks.

  15. Hello sir i am Pratiksha.i read your artical and i want to tell you that if a man spell crrectly then all people get true meaning.No doubt nowadays SMS language is accepted by peoople but a learner of english lang.must use correct english . The knowledge of correct spelling makes our task easy. thanks.

  16. SIR.
    1 I thought that everyone should in favoure to spell in comunicative way.The language made by the word or spelling but it's function is to communicate with people.Now the people understand the msg language than Where is the problem?
    2 Some says that there may be difficulty 4 new learner,but it is batter to learn with new begining.
    3Yes,there will be difficulty if every spelling changed by every it's batter if some popular words chage by some authority.
    4 At last it is the communication which important not the Function of language.bcoz before 200 or
    300 hundrade year the spelling were not the same as they are now.They are going chage continually.
    5 If not we are than in future it will happen and change.