Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 25 Sep 2008

Text spelling in school? Are we mad? Why does everything have to be made so easy for children today?

Hillary's Advice

At first I agreed with you. I am deeply wedded to apostrophes being in the right place and people being ‘bored with’ things, not ‘bored of’ them. Our language is beautiful, I thought. It is the language of Shakespeare. We must preserve it at all costs. But then I thought that there was no-one more inventive with language, in his day, than Shakespeare, and if we didn’t move on in life we would all be still be saying things to each other like ‘Nay good sir. Prithee keep up thy quillets.” And how good would that be for our twenty first century realities?

So the recent suggestion by John Wells, an emeritus professer at University College, London and current president of the Spelling Society, that phonetic and text spellings might replace the complicated spellings that children now have to learn is a serious one and not without merit. It’s coming anyway – many people would now no longer know that there should be an apostrophe at the start of this sentence, or care if it was missing – so why not embrace the inevitable instead of fighting to keep it at bay?

The function of grammar and spelling is to help people communicate clearly. If everyone now understands ‘c u l8er’ what is wrong with writing it as well as texting? It doesn’t look so nice as real language, but that’s entirely beside the point.

In fact some research shows that texting seems to be making people more literate rather than less, so for that we should all b v gr8ful.