Most teachers, it would appear, say no. A contributor to the TES online staffroom started two simultaneous threads, one stating that spelling and grammar do make a difference, the other saying they do not.
The aim was to see which side would generate more reasons to justify its argument. Last week, Lynne Truss, author of the bestseller Eats, Shoots Leaves, said that schools were failing pupils by not providing clear instruction in grammar and spelling. A number of staffroom contributors agree.
The pro-punctuation lobby has produced three pages of well-parsed reasoning. One contributor said: "I think it's fine for you not to place a value on grammar and spelling as long as you can spell and use standard grammar when the need arises."
Another argued that grammar lessons impart vital skills: "Nothing gives a worse initial impression than a document littered with facile mistakes."
A third told how she had been chatting with a friend online about an evening out. "Good night," he replied.
"I was thinking, 'How rude. He's just going to disappear abruptly like that,' " she said. "Of course, what he meant was, 'Good night?' Which has an entirely different meaning."
By contrast, the anti-grammar thread is almost 20 pages long. One contributor moans: "Some people prefer not to live according to pointless rules imposed on them by dreary people: 'Do not step on the grass', 'You must wait until the green man flashes', 'Never misuse apostrophes'."
Contributors say linguistic creativity and the joy of playing with language are evident in the unusual names many pupils bear. One said: "evriwon wil alwz undrstand ew howevr u spel thee 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."