i Assistant Editor's Letter: The rules of the English language


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The Independent Online

The argument over whether the use of grammar should be relaxed has graced many a page, and this week’s news that an Oxford professor has called for an end to the apostrophe would have pricked up the ears of sub-editors all over the country.

Indeed, many of you have written in, as I expected, mocking his proposals, which included standardising the spelling of “there”, “they’re” and “their”.

Professor Horobin argued that “spelling is not an indication of intelligence”, a statement that is impossible to disagree with. There are plenty of people who struggle with letters, including dyslexics, who can count themselves among the brightest minds in the country. But is it a good enough reason to abandon spelling and grammar?

Many years ago, not long after I had embarked on my career in journalism, I witnessed a long pointless argument over whether “orang-utan” took a hyphen or not. (Answer: it depends which dictionary you use). As Simon Kelner eloquently puts it on page 16, there are many more important issues in the world that we should be worrying about – poverty, hunger and disease – but that’s not reason enough to turn a blind eye to spelling.

We have enough trouble getting through all your correspondence as it stands – I shudder at the thought at what would happen to our inbox if we abandoned the rules of the English language! Every once in a while, when a finger slips on the keyboard and a typo finds its way on to our pages (surely it never happens?), I brace myself for the avalanche of letters, texts and tweets correcting our oversight.

Our biggest critics? They’re there – they’re their own judge. There there.

Twitter.com: @jonesrhodri