Re: Poll: does spelling matter?

Subject: Re: Poll: does spelling matter?
From: Vicki Rosenzweig <murphy!acmcr!vr -at- UUNET -dot- UU -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 1994 13:21:42 EDT

Meaning is carried by both spelling and sound--it depends
on your reader. Seriously. Some people are more visually
oriented, and for them the shape of the words matters. To
the aurally oriented, this may seem like pointless nitpicking.
Professional technical communicators, and anyone else who
writes for a living, should either know how to spell or
be aware of their weaknesses and consult a dictionary at need.
(My boss regularly calls my extension to ask me for spellings;
I wish he'd get a dictionary, but I'd far rather he ask me than
send things out with the wrong spelling.)

As for simplified spelling, a little bit is fine (dropping
the "u" in words like "labour" has done no harm), but most of
the radical spelling reform proposals are based on the
(probably unconscious) assumption that there is a single
standardized pronunciation of English, and would have the effect
of confusing all readers whose pronunciation (especially of
vowels) differs from that of the reformer.

Finally, I'd like to note that I just finished reading Jane
Austen's _Sense and Sensibility_ and the spelling of English
then (two centuries ago) was both different from ours in some
noticeable ways--for example, "every thing" for "everything,"
"her's" for "hers," and "chuse" for "choose," at least the last
of which is arguably more reasonable--so the assertion that
spelling is "less important than it used to be" strikes me as
a sign of a very short historical timescale. Standardized
spelling is, at least in English, a new idea, and I think a
useful one.

Vicki Rosenzweig
vr%acmcr -dot- uucp -at- murphy -dot- com
New York, NY

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