From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Proper spelling is the writing of a word or words with all necessary letters and diacritics present in an accepted, conventional order. It is one of the elements of orthography and a prescriptive element of language. As a means of transcribing the sounds of language into alphabetic letters, spelling, however officially sanctioned, often offers but a rough and inconsistent approximation.
Whereas uniformity in the spelling of words is one of the features of a standard language in modern times, and official languages usually prescribe standard spelling, minority languages and regional languages often lack this trait. Furthermore, it is a relatively recent development in various major languages in national contexts, linked to the compiling of dictionaries, the founding of national academies, and other institutions of language maintenance, including compulsory mass education.
Learning proper spelling by rote is a traditional element of elementary education. In the US, the ubiquity of the phonics method of teaching reading, which emphasizes the importance of “sounding out” spelling in learning to read, also puts a premium on the prescriptive learning of spelling. For these reasons, divergence from standard spelling is often perceived as an index of stupidity, illiteracy, or lower class standing. The intelligence of Dan Quayle, for instance, was repeatedly disparaged for correcting a student’s spelling of “potato” as “potatoe” at an elementary school spelling bee in Trenton, New Jersey on June 15, 1992. In fact, “potatoe” is a variant, though long obsolete, historical spelling.
The opposite view was held when spelling began to be standardized, and was voiced by President Andrew Jackson who stated “It’s a dam pur mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”
In countries such as the US and UK without official spelling policies, many vestigial and foreign spelling conventions work simultaneously. In countries where there is a national language maintenance policy, such as the Netherlands and Germany, reforms were driven to make spelling a better index of pronunciation. Spelling often evolves for simple reasons of alphabetic thrift, as when British “catalogue” becomes American “catalog”.
Divergent spelling is also a popular advertising technique, used to attract attention or to render a trademark “suggestive” rather than “merely descriptive.” The pastry chains Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme, for example, employ non-standard spellings. The same technique is also popular among recording artists.
Since traditional language teaching methods emphasize written language over spoken language, a second-language speaker may have a better spelling ability than a native speaker despite having a poorer command of the language.
- Sensational spelling
- Spelling reform
- German spelling reform of 1996
- Phonemic orthography
- Spelling pronunciation
- English spelling
- Greek orthography
- Latin spelling and pronunciation
- Russian orthography
- Official script
- Spelling Bee
- American and British English spelling differences
- Sensational spelling