The cost of a misspelled youth

THE education system which operated when I was of school age was far from perfect (including the near maniacal devotion to inflicting corporal punishment on young heads and bodies) but there were some good bits. One of them, which has benefited me through

THE education system which operated when I was of school age was far from perfect (including the near maniacal devotion to inflicting corporal punishment on young heads and bodies) but there were some good bits.

One of them, which has benefited me throughout my life, was giving high importance to good spelling.

I still remember thumbing through that oddly shaped little exercise book in which one noted new words. There was a quiet excitement about filling it up as one broadened one's vocabulary.

Some teachers were passionate about encouraging their charges to take an interest in words and their correct spelling.


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Frequent spelling tests - and the resulting writing out 10 times of those words one got wrong - along with regular reading was all that was needed to give students a good grounding in the English language.

How things have changed since then. When I was a young reporter in the Seventies I remember viewing with trepidation the change by trendy teachers - I saw it as a fad or craze - to ditch everything that had gone before and instead lead pupils down the path of phonetic spelling. Don't bother getting them to do it right, just write down how it sounds, was the cry. It was doomed to failure, which it did thank goodness.

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But there has been no improvement since then. In fact, I'm positive people's spelling has got worse.

Many of the letters received at The Comet are littered with literals. The new language of texting is no doubt responsible for a serious downturn in spelling standards.

The other day I received an email about an entrepreneur of the year competition. The (no doubt) young lady who wrote it was based in Leamington Spa and obviously had not heard, or taken note of, Britain's first new town as she claimed that one of the finalists was from Stephenage.

Another email plunged me further into the depths of despair, revealing that a gadget advice company had given up the ghost and decided to take the unusual step of registering incorrect spellings of its brand domain as the only way to tackle the problem that the 18 to 21 age group in the UK have with spelling the word gadget.

Statistics showed that 28 per cent of these young people were leaving out the letter d.

Only three per cent of those aged 30 to 50 misspelt the word but the figure is 15 per cent for 21 to 30-year-olds so the company felt it would be missing out on potential customers if it did not set up three new domain names to include gajit, gagit and gaget. Typing in company names incorrectly could potentially cost the online economy millions of pounds, it is feared.

Sadly, a gadget company boss admitted: "With the economy of the UK attempting to crawl out of recession, businesses that trade online need to adapt their trading methods to counter educational shortcoming when it comes to spelling."

Another nail in the coffin, or should that be cofin?

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