Withhold 'Judgement' on Students When a Word is 'Misspelt'

August 07, 2008

Ken Smith is fed up with correcting his students’ atrocious spelling and makes this modest proposal in an essay in the Times Higher Education Supplement: “University teachers should simply accept as variant spelling those words our students most commonly misspell.”

A senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University, in England, Mr. Smith lists 10 common misspellings that he would accept. Among them: “arguement” for “argument”; “Febuary” for “February”; “occured” for “occurred”; “opertunity” for “opportunity”; and “thier” for “their.”

“Either we go on beating ourselves and our students up over this problem or we simply give everyone a break and accept these variant spellings as such,” writes Mr. Smith.

The widespread attention his essay got after the Times supplement came out this morning took the lecturer by surprise. He later told a local newspaper, the Bucks Free Press, that he thought many readers had misunderstood his point. “I am not proposing spelling reform, I am not saying that people who can spell should unlearn what they learn at school or learn to spell these words differently,” he explained. “I am just saying we should allow a few more variants.”

So, just for the sake of arguement, are you willing to ignor it when a misspelling has occured? —Don Troop