Spelling out the problem

2nd November 2012 at 00:00

Ruth Owen thinks it's important to teach standard English spelling, especially differentiations such as there, their and they're, in order to avoid confusion ("Use it, abuse it, but don't let 'em lose it", Resources, 26 October). Teachers do, yet they keep being misspelled. If we saw people being regularly tripped up by a worn step, we would replace or improve it. Why can't we do the same with clearly troublesome spellings?

Instead of insisting that itsit's and their ilk must provide a never-ending supply of marking, might it not be wiser to adopt just one sensible spelling for such sets? More than 2,000 English words have just one spelling for their different meanings. There are 103 pairs of different words that have to share one spelling. So why do we allow 334 homophones to continue making learning to spell English much harder than it need be? Surely it's time to consider amending some of Samuel Johnson's unphonic and illogical spellings that have been causing trouble since 1755.

Masha Bell, Literacy researcher for the English Spelling Society and author of e-book Spelling it Out.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a TES/ TESS subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


Get Tes online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to Tes online and the Tes app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off Tes Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the Tes online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order today