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Poor spelling is a growing problem

PUBLISHED: 06:47 13 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:12 06 July 2010

WHETHER or not Gordon Brown spelt the name of a soldier who died in active service wrong in a letter of condolence to his mother brings the growing national epidemic of sloppy spelling to the fore.

WHETHER or not Gordon Brown spelt the name of a soldier who died in active service wrong in a letter of condolence to his mother brings the growing national epidemic of sloppy spelling to the fore.

Spelling a name wrong on official correspondence is inexcusable but happens all the time.

Everywhere we look we're confronted with general poor spelling, wrongly used apostrophes, careless construction and terrible presentation.

Bad spelling is bad manners. It shows a lack of care and respect.

It probably wasn't the first time, or last, that Jacqui Janes has been spelt wrongly or received a letter with errors. Receiving anything today containing correct information, spelling and presentation is a cause for celebration so woefully slapdash is our attitude to the written word.

Correspondence littered with errors, inaccuracies and appalling grammar and punctuation lands on our doormats every day. It stares at us in the street on signs, vans and public notices.

Websites - even newspaper websites - are clogged with spelling and punctuation guess work.

Letters from schools are among the worst offenders. Apostrophes floating here and there like tails pinned blindfolded on a donkey, bizarre syntax and spelling errors.

We trust schools to educate our children and letters they send home letters scream “uneducated.”

My sons' primary years made me a fully paid up member of the green ink brigade, scrawling corrections over newsletters to make myself feel better. Tempted though I was to present them to the school office, my sons begged me not too.

In exercise books, misspellings have gone uncorrected and even adults' comments have left much to be desired in the spelling and punctuation department.

One explanation was that teachers didn't correct children's spelling because they didn't want to stymie their creativity with red pen corrections. So long live illiteracy.

This “it'll do” attitude is everywhere. Employers complain about sloppy applications with names spelt wrong, words mis-used, spelling lackadaisical, not even run through a spell-check.

Council workers happily put up a road sign with a glaring error in Liverpool last week. It was only when the council was shamed by an eight-year-old for its “Willsford Avenune” sign did it take action.

It's easy to blame texting, emailing and social networking sites.

My older son laughs at my laborious texting - no contractions, proper sentences.

I try to drum into him that once standards slip, they're gone forever.

To him I'm an old fuddy-duddy who frets and over reacts to a nonexistent problem.

I went bananas recently after my daily spying sessions on older son's Facebook activity. The spelling - by supposedly bright high achievers - was atrocious.

“But it's not school work, Mum. It doesn't matter how people spell things.”

Grrrrrr.That's my point. The written word, in whatever form, does matter. It always matters. Anything written - texts or Facebook - should be subject to the same rigour as schoolwork.

It's what marks you out as one who can or one who can't.

Bad habits become custom and down the slippery slope into illiteracy we go.

No wonder the boss of Tesco took a swipe at the standard of school leavers as “woefully low”.

But, as long as the “yoof” can understand what's written, it's ok. Chill out, Mum, it's no big deal.

But it's such a big deal. So long was the fight for literacy for everyone in Britain and so swift its undoing.

WAITING staff in restaurants are often on the minimum wage and rely on customers' tips to boost their earnings.

Most of us wouldn't dream of leaving a restaurant without tipping.

But third in line to the throne Prince Harry had no such qualms. He even asked for a 20pc military discount on a £14.60 chicken wrap and chips in a Nando's near his Army base before leaving with his 10 colleagues without leaving a tip.

What is the saying about those with the most?

But then he'll never know what it's like to survive on the minimum wage - he probably has no idea what it even is.

WHAT next? Mummies of investment bankers storming the offices of their little darlings' bosses to complain about their “babies'” appraisals?

The price of years of mollycoddling children, pandering to their every beck and call, driving them everywhere, picking them up, treating them like little emperors and never getting them to think for themselves is coming back to bite us.

Now gap year teenagers are too scared to step into the world alone to go travelling so they're taking mummy and daddy along with them.

Travelling the world is supposed to be a way to escape mum and dad, to take risks, to adventure, not hang on mummy's travel rug.

Imagine the scene. Grumpy spotty teenager sulking in the Australian bush with mater and pater pointing out all the points of interest. “Look Johnny, a lovely kookaburra.”

“But muuuum. I'm hungry,” he whines as poor mater, laden with all the supplies, is expected to whip up little Johnny's favourite before washing his smalls in the creak and tucking him into his sleeping bag.

We're smothering our children into helpless jellies who can't think for themselves let alone have the gumption to get out there and get a life.

A MOTHER is outraged that she has been “criminalised” for telling off her children and threatening to give her 11-year-old son a “hiding” when he got home.

Her words: “If you carry on like this you're going to get another hiding like the one you had earlier” alerted an off-duty police officer to follow her home and carry out a follow-up check.

If I had heard a mother threaten to beat a child I might have been worried for the children's safety and the authorities were right to check out their circumstances.

The aggression parents show to their children in public is often disturbing. They don't hold back.

At the weekend, I was in the Bluewater shopping centre, in Kent, and witnessed some pretty brutal chastisements by parents on small children being dragged round the shops.

Supermarket shopping is often unavoidable with children but spending entire days trailing around shops is a punishment in itself for children.

It's unfair. All they wanted to do was play but they were shouted at to be good for hours on end staring at other shoppers' knees or bottoms, depending on their height.

Stressed parents on family shopping outings yell, threaten, grab and finger wag when they should never have taken the children there in the first place.

A day out for a child is never shopping - it's running around outside free and having fun.

WHEN children want a dog it's pester power all the way.

They nag and nag, promise to feed, clean and exercise the hound but, after a few months, the job falls to the fathers, a study has said.

Not in our house. Like everything else, that role fell firmly at my feet. Mine became the dog's life.

Son the Younger was desperate for a dog and nagged and nagged followed a close second by husband who had been brought up with a dog and thought a canine addition would make our family.

I grew up pet-free and, to be honest, was a little scared of slobbering, drooling hounds as was Son the older.

But, within days of our golden retriever puppy's arrival, he became my dog - and what a revelation. After the boys, of course, he is the best thing that happened to me after more than 40 years wasted in the dog wilderness.

I'm so glad I was cajoled into it and would like to thank my son and husband publicly for making me officially a “doggy person.”

Long walks in peace with a male that never complains or answers back, listens and makes a fuss of me and loves me whatever I do, say or look like. Perfect, even with the drool and dog hairs.

A HEAD teacher spoke on the radio about rewarding persistent truants for staying at school.

Rewards and incentives are piled on children seen as “failing” with parents who don't give a damn.

What about rewards for the kids who go to school every day anyway, are engaged in their learning and do their homework without complaint?

Oh, their rewards come in the exam results envelope, teachers say.

Many parents who do their best instilling the value of education, right and wrong, boundaries and decent behaviour into their children are sick of resources, energy, but most of all rewards, being channelled into children of parents who never do what they should.

Children with parents who encourage, are interested and believe in education get nothing at all.

What's that lesson teaching them?

MORE than one million 16 to 24-year-olds are unemployed in Britain - higher than any other EU nation - many graduates who believed a degree and £20,000 debt was the key to a bright working future.

How disillusioned they must be.

But what of the future when the retirement age is rising and, we're all living longer and expecting to work well into what was once considered “old age?”

There will be even fewer jobs for the young.

A right old mess, as some might say.


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