Most teachers, it seems, say no. A contributor to The TES online staffroom started two threads, one stating that spelling and grammar do make a difference, the other saying that they do not. The aim was to see which side would generate the best arguments.
Last week, Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots Leaves, the bestselling grammar and punctuation guide, told The TES that schools were failing pupils by not providing clear instruction in grammar and spelling.
A number of contributors agree. The pro-punctuation lobby produced three pages of well-parsed reasoning. One contributor said: "It's fine not to place a value on grammar and spelling as long as you can spell and use standard grammar when the need arises. Children need the opportunity to develop these skills at school."
Another told how she had been chatting with a friend on-line about an evening out. "Good night," he replied. "I was thinking, 'how rude. He's just going to disappear,'" she said. "Of course, what he meant was, 'good night?'"
However, the anti-grammar thread extends to some 20 pages. One contributor moans: "Some people prefer not to live by pointless rules imposed by dreary people: 'do not step on the grass'; 'you must wait until the green man flashes'; 'never misuse apostrophes'..." Another said: "evriwon wil alwz undrstand ew howevr u spel... gramar iz just a newsancse." To which another replied: "u cal tht bad speelin? tht aint nuffin on wot sum of my kids cun mange."