Apple's and pear's in danger
In a development which could spell the end of apple's and pear's, tests are to be introduced from 2009 to assess pupils' mastery of the rules of written English.
Teenagers will have to show they can use quotation marks, commas and the apostrophe correctly in functional English tests.
All pupils will have to pass the tests to achieve a C or above in GCSE English, as the Government reacts to employers' concerns about standards of English.
The tests go further than English GCSE, which simply mentions the need for accurate punctuation and spelling.
The proposal from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has been welcomed by campaigners for linguistic exactitude.
Lynne Truss, author of the bestselling Eats, Shoots and Leaves, said: "I'm very happy. Correct punctuation and spelling does have a bearing on people's success in life, so in a way it is not fair to tell pupils it is OK to make mistakes in exams."
However, Bethan Marshall, lecturer in English education at King's College, London, said: "People do make careless mistakes with the apostrophe.
A-grade students will also put a comma between two lengthy sentences when they should have used a full stop. Are we saying that they should not pass these tests? That seems to me to be absurd."
Dr Marshall said the new tests could also cut the amount of time pupils spend learning literature, as staff spend time coaching teenagers to pass them.
Consultation on the tests closes at the end of March.