back to article Suprise at spelling snafu sanctions

Proof that the revised maxim "If you can't beat 'em, fuck it all off and have some pie" is increasingly the norm reaches us today, as a senior university lecturer throws his hands aloft and declares a spelling amnesty. According to the Times, Dr Ken Smith of Buckinghamshire New University* suggests a list of 20 common mistakes …


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  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    There's only one cure for this kind of attitude...

    Give 'em a touch of the knout!

    If they're too lazy to learn the *language*, why should we bother exposing them to higher education? It isn't the place of a university to be teaching basic language skills.

    Mind you, I'm soft on spelling and grammar mistakes. I'd support the 'one percent off the total score for every mistake on the paper' approach, rather than the hard-line 'you've failed!' at the first mistake.

    (Yes, I *know*. There will always be unfortunates who are unable on medical grounds to write English without mangling it. But no-one else has an excuse.)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I can't help but agree though. While we are at it, get rid of the bane o my life the " ' "

  3. Sean Groarke

    Kew the weirdos

    So a sentence such as "Their books - they're there" would now become "There books - there there."


  4. Peter Lenz
    Paris Hilton

    Thes es a gudd idear

    All kidding aside there is no central body that governs English like, say, French Academy does French. As such there is nothing stopping anyone from deciding that these other spellings are in fact correct.

    Paris - for her significant contributions to the English lexicon.

  5. Avi

    I might be missing the point here....

    But I was under the impression that the bulk of the point of the exams and coursework is to demonstrate that not only do you understand the subject matter, but you can explain it coherently?

    Which, surely, includes managing at least the grasp of the English expected of a seven year old?

  6. Chris

    That says a lot about...

    ...Buckinghamshire New University, really.


  7. AC
    Thumb Down

    it's time

    to give in,

    give up,

    go out,


    then your language skills will be at the level of the average student at buckinghamshire unviersity {THATS A UNI NOW WTF ?!?!?!?!}

  8. James Bassett

    Shoot them all

    Even if his students can't spell then can we not at least teach them how to use a spelling checker? I can't believe any of his students are actually handing in hand-written essays.

    Yes, I know this also means teaching the plebs how to switch the spelling checker over from the default English (US) to English (UK) (would it really be that hard, MS, to set English (UK) as the default when the OS's time zone is set to GMT?) but they can't be that thick can they?

    I did hear our head of HR complaining earlier this week at the appalling standard of English used by respondents to a recent job advert for a very junior role. She didn't mention the spelling in particular, just the general inability to put together a coherent sentence.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It won't change a thing...

    Im sure, after 3 years of one lecture (well, 4 terms over 3 years), who wouldent accept word processed work (apparenly he was worried about cheeting if somthing wasent in your hand writing) insisting on correcting my spelling, dispite the fact that he was told regulaly that he should not do it as I was Dyslexic.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    They might well still get their degree...

    ...but I won't be employing the stupid illiterate twerps.

  11. Guybrush Threepwood

    Writing is so 3000 years ago...

    Here's a thought, why bother with actual letters when talking is pretty good, scrap this writing bollocks, it causes nothing but trouble. I want to see ideas represented in picture format like the Maya, possibly aided by interpretive dance cycles to convey the emotions behind the words and the cultural identity of the people speaking them...

    I noticed recently that our local Teenage Pregnancy service did a run of leaflets with "R U 13 2 19" on them, surely kids don't see that and go "Ah, now theres a hip young message I can relate to, must go to the local community centre to pick up a bundle of free profilactics so that I might be protected if I strike it lucky with that pretty thing in the summer dress". I'm no young buck but at 23 I'm pretty au fait with text lingo and this just makes me cringe, like the 42 year old dads who blast fall out boy out of the car speakers and think they're cool, or the scumbags who put fancy or foreign phrases like 'au fait' in their posts to make themselves sound important, dickheads.

    Oh, wait...

  12. Thomas Schulze
    Thumb Up


    And I'm tired of learning foreign languages, so let's get rid of them and make everyone speak loudly and slowly ;)

  13. bigolslabomeat

    Criminology students..

    ..clearly aren't a bright bunch, some of those suggestions are just stupid, not "variations", pure stupidity.

    Certainly not a techy bunch as they must be writing all their coursework by hand, either that or they've not learnt what that little red squiggly line means.

  14. Al


    Isn't there something very wrong here? If a teacher is tired of correcting the spelling mistakes made by his (or her) pupils, isn't that indicative of the standard of education they've had?

    Surely the students should be getting tought how to spell, not having their common mistakes accepted as 'variants'. Or is this to allow exam marking to be outsourced more easily next time round?

  15. Robajob

    No need to correct their spelling...

    Just knock marks off for it. If they haven't got the nous to find out what's wrong with their spelling then what the hell are they doing at university in the first place?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    a moose loose in the hoose

    > Anyone correcting our deliberate (as in the headline) misspelling, or indeed our

    > accidental misspelling, will be cast onto the barbecue

    I think you're in danger of loosing the plot :-)

  17. David Webb

    I agree

    Totaly agre wiv this blowk, eny kidz whu kant spel rite shud b alowd two du az dey wont two du. Y shud dey hav two spel rite enywho? Itz nut leik dey kned two b abel two spel in der reel wurld!

    Good lord, its incredibly difficult to spell like that. Guy needs to be strung up, kids need to be able to spell properly, they need to know why we use their instead of there, the current crop of kids will be facing off in the international marketplace against Chinese children, think of the future!

  18. Gulfie


    No, please, use a dictionary...

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Sounds about right for today's education system!

    Sorry Prof., but your setting a very bad precedent or to put it another way "If you give 'em and inch, they'll take a mile!".

  20. Stef
    Thumb Down


    Just please please please don't start up the nonsense about phonetic spelling.

    I can't wait for for the kidz from London <i>axing</i> me a question, or the kidz from Newcastle who get wet it the <i>rian</i>, or us in the home counties who would rather take a <i>barth</i> than a shower.

  21. DMJ

    How about...

    just learning how to spell? Christ, these are college students!

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Wheir indeed?

    "Al vere wel, Duckter* Smiv, but whier does that leaf "they're", eh? Wheir?"

    What rubbish! We read by recognising word shapes (not their spelling) and hence their meaning. You can generally swap all the middle letters of words and still have readable sentences - but that shouldn't make it acceptable. He's just after an easy life, the lazy old duffer*.

    Ask a lawyer about how important spelling can be (along with proper punctuation).

    * He's probably a quack.

    * Must be an old duffer to pander to the yoof of today.


  23. Steve

    @ Peter Lenz

    "All kidding aside there is no central body that governs English like, say, French Academy does French. As such there is nothing stopping anyone from deciding that these other spellings are in fact correct."

    Other than the fact that they are wrong, you're right, theirs nothin stoping ennieone...

    And why the hell are we listening to the opinions of a criminology lecturer from a polytechnic?

  24. Ken Darling
    Thumb Up

    Wot er totel fuqwit

    stew pit kunt. neckst heel b teling us too yous txtspk insted.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Point at him

    and scream HERETIC!!!!

    Do a google on "20 Gnarliest Torture Devices of All Time" and suggest he review his options.


  26. Chris Harden

    And people wonder why people have so little respect for degrees nowadays

    See title.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    And the guy is a lecturer?

    Changing the spelling and you can change the whole meaning of the word. My pet hate is how the word 'lose' is constantly being written as 'loose' all over forums, comments pages etc. it isn't rocket science.

  28. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    @Neil Barnes: 1% rule + some pedantry

    Deducting 1% for each mistake would sink (sync? ;-) ) the hopes of many students. Many can easily top 30 errors in an essay.

    I always find there is a distinct correllation between the quality of language and the actual content. Good writing indicates good care, and good thinking. It is no accident that one of our worst (msc) students writing-wise came up with

    sqrt(-4) = -2

    in an exam (my comment: OH COME ON!!!!!)

    Another beauty (by a first year student):

    A hash function requires a large prime number, e.g. 1000 (comment by colleague: not big enough or to big)


    On a different note, English spelling is far from mercurial (volatile, changeful), rather it was fixed in time when pronunciation was far closer to spelling than it is now. The Dutch by contrast have a spelling reform every other year (OK, decade)

    which does not help much either.


  29. Adrian Jackson

    @Sean Groarke

    I believe it would actually be "There buks there there". Punctuation is too elitist and difficult, and 'books' is too complex for the likes of me.

    It also means "Their books - they're there" would now be exactly the same in written form as "They're books - there, there". Which can only be a good thing. Or a bad thing. Or a thing.

    Personally I think there's only one solution - bring back capital punishment for such egregious spelling mistakes. Or, if you're a bleeding heart liberal, corporal punishment.

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  31. Dave

    Just remember...

    There's a "we" in "weird".

    Deduct marks for bad spelling, encourage them to learn the language properly. Deduct double marks for using US spellings...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But why don't they care?

    People don't *care* about getting it right. I was helping a younger friend with an essay recently, and despite my protestations she didn't care about using 'formal' English. Writing things like "If you do this, then...." etc for a uni essay isn't the right tone in my book.

    So what I want to know is why people don't take pride in their writing? They care so much about how they are perceived visually or socially, but not to a lecturer (who doesn't know them) who is making a judgement about their future, purely on the basis of their written work. I just can't get my head around it.

  33. A. Lewis

    This article made me die a little inside.

    I shall get my coat, mine's the one with the dictionary in the pocket.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re:Kew the weirdos

    Not that I am remotely in support of this idea of making laziness and incompetence correct or even acceptable, but repeated words in a sentence are already correct and occasionally useful. This is taken to the logical conclusion with the _perfectly_correct_ sentence "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo".

  35. Richard

    A vision of the future

    This reminds me of the old joke email (

    Worryingly, entering "Ze drems of the Guvernmnt vud finali hav kum tru" into google, it asked Did you mean: Ze drems of the Government vud finali hav kum tru?

    It's clearly spreading...

    I was delighted to learn (admittedly on wikipedia, so pinch of salt mode is ON) that "Buckinghamshire New University owes its existence, at least in part, to a tax imposed on beer and spirits towards the end of the nineteenth century". This explains a lot.

  36. The BigYin

    If they can't be bothered to spell correctly...

    ...what else can't they be bothered to do correctly?

    One hopes that no technical courses (e.g. engineering or anything actually important) are taught at this uni if their (there?) mathematics is as inaccurate as their spelling.


    If the students cannot spell - fail them. It's that simple.

  37. Bill Gould
    Gates Halo

    Fire this dolt

    ...and fail those that chose to follow in his illiterate wake.

    Learn to spell kids. I don't want to support your unemployed ass because your resume is full of typos and 'made up' words.

  38. Xander

    o deer

    u jst no its thees kids hull b cryng wn thy cant gt a job newere

  39. Tim Elphick
    Paris Hilton

    Can't the university just

    print there certificates in thier own spelling? Not that anybody's ever looked at mine, mind. Or my certificate ; )

    I might add, that being the old duffer that I am, at 27 I find youth spellings to be rather difficult at times. As for the slang, that just gets silly.

    I think Paris gets rather a bad press around here. Not from me. I still would. So long as she was quiet.

  40. Dale Fessenden

    Misspelt vs Unsavory

    Are the misspellings to be condemned & the unsavory cliches of the article accepted?

  41. Daniel


    Please, no. They just make matters worst by letting idiots sink hat because it passes whatever piss of junk MS have put on their PC, awl is OK.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Whilst queuing at Kew I poked his eyes out with a cue...

    The very flames of hell cannot burn hot enough for this man.

    I can't believe there's someone I actually despise more than Hazel Blears.

  43. Martin Lyne


    ..they expected to be able to correctly spell "Criminology" on thier CVs? Or is it just meant to be a padding degree where they never get jobs? If i was reading a CV and they had left typos in - bin.

    If you're about to say "But they would pay more attention when writing a CV" then THEY SHOULD PAY ATTENTION WHEN DOING THEIR/THERE/THEY'RE/THAR/THUR DEGREE!

    I loved the way my maths lecturer corrected my borked roman numeral page headings (It was an accidnet, on the second set I had only one sheet of paper, accidentally wrote 1 and didn't want to cross it out for neatnesses sake.. so I went with II, it went squiffy at 7 I think. VII or IIIX?)

    More pedants, less "I can't be bothered to mark things" professors.

    Oh and less people that say "think" instead of "thing", Somethink? TELL ME THEN, WHAT *DO* SOME THINK?

    *Pants, breathes, trousers*

    Aliens would learn English proper.

  44. moylan

    can't we all get along?


    The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5 year phase-in plan that would be known as "EuroEnglish": --

    In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c".. Sertainly, this will make the sivil sevants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favor of the "k". This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have one less letter.

    There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with the "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.

    In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e"'s in the language is disgraceful, and they should go away.

    By the 4th yar, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaning "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

    After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer.


  45. Harry Stottle

    Headline Ironic Right?

    I can't be the only one who spotted "Suprise"?

    More seriously, the case for allowing such "flexibility" is made by Sean Groarke's sample above: "There books - there there."

    How would you cope with that sentence if spoken rather than written? Answer "context"; and it's not wildly unreasonable to apply the same logic to the written word. But that only applies to that kind of example - where we're dealing not so much with mis-spelling as with wrong choice of words which sound identical.

    Permitting things like "wierd" instead of "weird", however, just muddies the water and ultimately slows down communication.

  46. Jolyon Ralph
    Thumb Down

    Batchelors Degree in Sumfink

    It's all well and good helping them get educated good and proper, but shouldn't someone tell these illiterate darlings how it's going to look when they send out their first CV and have it rejected by everyone?

    What the hell is the point in encouraging bad habits? Sounds like an excuse for lazy teaching to me.


  47. This post has been deleted by its author

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Misspelling are a big no-no on any CVs that come here. It's a very easy way to reduce the pile. You might get a degree, butt youll still be surving hamburgas at Macdonalds.

  49. JohnG Silver badge

    Too stupid/lazy to have degree...

    ...if they can't spell basic words after 12+ years of compulsory free education.

    I notice that about half of the recruitment consultants that send me emails use "their" and "there" incorrectly.

    Why don't we save the taxes spent on eduction, let the kids fuck about for the 12 years and give them all a Media Studies degree if they're still alive at 21?

  50. Pete

    Dr Smith...

    kan fuk off, coz e can.

    Seriously, I haven't heard such a lot of wet fermented dribble in a long time. No, we don't have the equivalent of an Academie française to "protect" our language, and English is indeed evolving all the time, which is a wonderful thing. However we do have accepted grammatical and orthographic standards that help us to communicate with each other without too many problems. Just because some people cannot meet these standards, it doesn't mean that we should lower them. How will these people then thrive in a world where there are many people for whom the standards are still important?

    In saying that, I know people who just cannot spell many words correctly, no matter how hard they try. It creates a sort of mental block for them. One of my girlfriends in particular had me tearing out my hair in my attempts to show her how to spell words and how to remember they way they were spelt. In the end I gave up, become relaxed about it, and concentrated on enjoying the other pleasures that we could share together. I know that there will always be people like that, but it doesn't mean that we should lower the standards for everybody in general.


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