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How Important is Spelling?

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How important is spelling? One British academic suggests that it may not possess the importance most English teachers, scholars, and linguists would otherwise have you believe. The academic has suggested that barring any instances of miscommunication, variant spellings should be accepted by society. Is there any harm if "occasion" were spelled with two s's? Or would the world end if the i and e were reversed in such words as "foreign," "weird," or "neighbor?"

Not everyone agrees, however. In fact, quite a number of academics have gotten in a huff with regards to the proposal. Even if English may have numerous exceptions to established rules, those rules still exist for a reason. With consistent and coherent spelling, communication is easier. Good spelling goes hand in hand with good writing, which implies that the reader should have little need to re-read sentences to interpret the intent of the writer. Spelling is just as important as good grammar, agree most academics.

With the advent of text messaging, which favors a disregard for proper spelling and grammar for speed, it's become more important than ever to adhere to spelling rules. What would your impression be of an official letter from the bank or local government with words spelled willy-nilly? Or how would you feel about a glossy business pamphlet which introduced you to a company's products and services, but with numerous spelling mistakes? Equally important, yet also more troublesome, would be an undecipherable business letter or email. What might the consequences be then?

It all comes down to communication. In face-to-face conversations, it proves relatively easy to clarify or explain an idea. Visual clues and tone of voice also help. But written emails and letters rely on rules to promote quick comprehension. Despite one academic's wish, spelling can't be ignored.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Warm Up: Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  1. I wish that my spelling ability in English were better.
  2. I wish that my English grammar were better.
  3. There should be an international form of English different from American English, British English, and so on.
  4. It's okay if a non-native English student makes many spelling mistakes.
  5. It's okay if a native English speaker makes many spelling mistakes.

Fragments: Remember how the fragments were used, and complete the sentence from today's article.

  1. Is there any harm if "occasion" were...
  2. Even if English may have numerous exceptions to established rules...
  3. Spelling is just as important as...
  4. Equally important, yet also more troublesome, would be...
  5. Visual clues and...

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. What do you think about spelling well? How important is it? Please explain.
  2. What would you think if you received an email with many abbreviations and spelling mistakes? Please explain.
  3. How would you feel if your teacher often spelled words incorrectly? How about if he had poor grammar?
  4. Why do you think there are grammar and spelling rules? Please explain.
  5. Should an international form of English follow American rules, British rules, or something different? Why?

Google Search: Type "spelling" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:

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