When my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Peters, demanded good spelling from her students, I never dreamed that someday my vocational life would revolve around words. So I’m grateful for the investment of many good teachers in my writing abilities — though I don’t always live up to their expectations of excellence.
However, I do know that both the spoken and written word has power — to explain, to inspire, to offend and to comfort. So I try to pay close attention to what I write and say. (The emphasis is on try.)
The rules of writing are always changing. In fact, a strict observance of every grammatical law handed down by my teachers of long ago would inhibit my ability to communicate.
An occasional split infinitive, for example, can serve a writer well. And starting a sentence with a conjunction (like this one) no longer draws a red mark.
Interestingly, the British government (according to an Associated Press report) has told teachers to stop passing along the spelling rule about “‘i’ before ‘e,’ except after ‘c.'”
There are just too many exceptions, they noted, such as “sufficient,” “veil” and “their.” But (beginning another sentence with a contraction) maybe it should be changed from a rule to a mere starting point.
I will ask my daughters if this or any other spelling rule is being omitted today.
My guess is that their English teachers have more serious concerns these days. While they lecture about grammar and writing styles, a whole new language is being tapped out on the many mini-keyboards in their students’ hands.