Spelling doesn't matter!

Steen Videbeck
Insights Newsletter
28 May, 2021

“Soz, I meen spelng dozent mattr!”

For those who haven’t heard, a British university has instructed its lecturers to overlook incorrect spelling, punctuation and grammar. Why? They don’t want to be elitist.

I was outraged when I first read this. Why isn’t New Zealand following the University of Hull’s brave lead? Unleashing students’ creativity and smashing the limiting social construct that is proper English.

New Zealand used to lead the world in dismantling spelling. Back in the heydays of the mid-2000s, where text messages were limited to 160 characters and numeric keyboards ruled, NZQA allowed txt language in NCEA exams. TBH IMO our culture waz richer 4 it. Plus, acronyms and texting abbreviations are very innovative. UR, LOL, IDK, IRL, THX, TMI, GR8, have all survived long since the last Nokia 3301 was retired.

But instead of kicking on and finishing the job we have waited until 2020 to be beaten by the UK’s 50th best university. That’s not O for awesome.

Deep down we all know that spelling isn’t important.

An entirely trustworthy meme famously found “it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers be at the rghit pclae.”

Plus, does it really matter if we write, ‘The cat sat on the mat’, or, ‘Da kat set un de matt’? It’s perfectly understandable. We could even change to our own Nu Ziled akcent English. Kiwis have shown that vowels are pretty interchangeable. Fush n Chops ne1?

Or why not target that essential 21st-century skill, problem-solving. ‘Yb gnitirw sdrow sdrawkcab’. Sorry, ‘by writing words backwards’. It’s a playful way to engage readers on a deeper level.

Oh, and grammar and punctuation aren’t important either.

What’s the deal with capital letters? Why should certain words have a capital letter? What’s so special about proper nouns? Auckland, Jacinda, English. That’s a bit elitist. I personally think all words should be equal. lower case for all!

Or why don’t we just follow Twitter users and use ALL CAPS. MOST COMIC BOOKS USE UPPERCASE AS IT IS A MORE EFFICIENT USE OF SPACE. Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout.

We need to remove all punctuation and just replace all full stops with ‘and then’ and then every primary school student will be happy.

This also allows readers to put in their own punctuation, which is a lot more ‘reader centred’. It is sort of like a choose-your-own adventure. “The panda eats shoots and leaves.” You get to decide if it is a homicidal panda.

If axing punctuation is a step too far, at least encourage students to use unconventional nonstandard punctuation marks. Like the Interrobang (‽), which indicates a question expressed in an exclamatory manner. Why wouldn’t we teach this‽ Plus, it has the coolest name ever. Or my personal favourite, the Snark Mark (~), which shows irony in writing. The written equivalent of a smirk or rolling your eyes.

So yeah, ~spelling definitely doesn’t matter. ;-)

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