I am young enough to have grown up with a spellchecker on my word processors, and I depend on it more often than I should. I hold my breath and wait for the red squiggles to appear under a word, or, even better, Word automatically changes words for me and I don’t even notice it. Sometimes I write so fast that I can’t remember to use affect vs. effect. Or I accidentally type “its” instead of “it’s.”
As a professional writer and writing instructor, I feel like I need to uphold a solid grasp of American-English spelling and other Standard English rules. When I fall short, I feel embarrassed and guilty. Can anyone else relate to that?
Not all writers and English educators would agree with me. Anne Trubek, former associate professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Oberlin College, wrote: “Consistent spelling was a great way to ensure clarity in the print era. But with new technologies, the way that we write and read (and search and data-mine) is changing, and so must spelling.”
My gut reaction to her thesis is “noooooo!” because communication is difficult enough using a standard language. But when I pause to think about engaging in looser rules on spelling, I just think “hmmm” and wonder if it would work, if we could still communicate effectively.
Her idea is not a new one – she has been writing articles about looser spelling rules since at least 2012 – but the idea is still relevant and up for debate.
Trubek argues that language is constantly in flux as our culture and communications technology evolves, so therefore it’s natural for our spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules to evolve, too. For example, she writes: “The most widely used American word in the world, OK, was invented during the age of the telegraph because it was concise. No one considers it, or abbreviations like ASAP and IOU, a sign of corruption.”
So what if we use “1” for “one” or “UR” or “your” for “you’re” or “thru” for “through”?
“It doesn’t matter,” writes Trubek. “The messagee will still understand our message.”
So I ask you – writers, aka lovers of language – what do you think of Trubek’s proposal to de-standardize the English language? Check out her article and the podcast and return to the comments to weigh-in on the debate!
Brought to you by Anne Greenawalt aka lover of language