Thursday, February 16, 2012
Anne Trubek has an interesting article in Wired Magazine, Proper Spelling? Its Tyme to Let Luce. Trubek defends the claim that proper spelling is overvalued:
English spelling is a terrible mess anyway, full of arbitrary contrivances and exceptions that outnumber rules. Why receipt but deceit? Water but daughter? Daughter but laughter? What is the logic behind the ough in through, dough, and cough? Instead of trying to get the letters right with imperfect tools, it would be far better to loosen our idea of correct spelling.
The piece has invoked the ire of some in the grammar-nerd community. Grammar Girl responds that standard spelling has its benefits:
Sure, English spelling is often confusing and seems illogical, but proper spelling serves many good purposes.
Clarity. As Trubek conceded in her article, proper spelling "enables readers to understand writing, to aid communication and ensure clarity," and those seem like awfully good reasons for keeping it to me.
Understandable Contracts. ... accepting loose spelling could be a nightmare in legal contexts, where clear and precise meanings are essential. We should definitely stick to standard spelling for laws and contracts.
I could not agree with you more, Grammar Girl. Contractual ambiguity is enough of an ongoing legal issue without unnecessarily multiplying spellings of the same term. And I'm not sure I see the downside of proper spelling. Sure we commit time to learning to spell as children and adults, and we spend time proofreading for spelling errors. But the cost of this time does not exceed the confusion and headaches that would attend a more flexible system. I already have a hard enough time understanding text messages. Let me at least keep formal writing as one forum free of indignities like L8R and B4.