Spel Cheque.

Correct spelling, as a ‘thing’, has been back in the news recently as it was allegedly judged by some universities to be racist, or elitist, or both. But, as Jesse Jackson famously argued some years ago, if poor Americans of black or Hispanic heritage were allowed to learn nothing beyond a ghetto argot, they would never get a chance to work their way into ‘elite’ jobs – which would indeed, he said, be racist.

Consistent ways to spell and order words is a relatively new phenomenon. Shakespeare spelt his own name several different ways, and the early folios are full of variant spellings. Jane Austen’s manuscripts were littered with misspellings and she used ‘they’ to mean ‘she’ way ahead of the modern trend to use it to avoid specifying someone’s sex, so probably accidentally.

Oliver Kamm, a modern commentator on the use of English, doesn’t think we should get too hung up on perfect spelling. Anyway, he points out, despite the English language’s reputation for inconsistent spelling (which is the common excuse for getting things wrong, or arguing for simplification, or tearing up the rules) there is often a logic within the inconsistencies that English readers and writers grasp quite quickly as they are growing up. Think cough, rough, though // scoff, huff, hoe. Some of this is down to the number of different linguistic origins for our words.

Consistency in spelling first became prized when printing became widespread. Publishing houses and printers still have their preferred ‘house styles,’ and understanding this is important. It may take nothing away from the meaning of an essay on vegetables if you write coliflour instead of cauliflower, or brocolli instead of broccoli, but if you want a magazine to consider your article, you would be wise to use your spell check diligently.

And if good spelling is a key factor in keeping your manuscript out of the reject tray, think what it can do, as Jesse Jackson believed, for the ambitious but poorly connected school leavers and young graduates, keen to impress a prospective employer. Who would want to be the one to deny them that opportunity?

Links to my books and social media

You can find all my books and short stories on Amazon books, At least one story always free. ALL BOOKS FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED



Twitter: @meegrot