Don't ditch the adverb, the emoji of writing

The adverb gets people fired up, and the chorus calling for a ban is getting too loud to ignore.

Should we brazenly ditch the adverb? For those who spotted the nerdy linguistic pun in that question, my bias may be already abundantly clear. But maybe I’m wrong. Plenty of writers offer lexical advice - both solicited and not. The adverb gets people weirdly fired up; many are less fond of it than me. I spent recent months devouring writing about writing as I complete the first draft of my first novel, so the recurring themes are fresh in my sun-kissed skull.

[Guardian,_The; London,_UK; 2019-04-29]

8 ways to use phonics with adults

Synthetic phonics is most commonly associated with primary schools – but the technique can work with adults, too

The use of phonics with adults is not without controversy, with some feeling it infantilises older learners by using an approach more common in primary schools.

[TES; London,_UK; 2019-04-29]

Why Is English Spelling So Damn Weird?!

In this video I look at the historical factors that have made English spelling so varied, inconsistent, and unpredictable!


[YouTube; San_Bruno,_CA,_US; 2019-04-26]

William Shakespeare BOMBSHELL

How unearthed signatures of poet show ‘name spelt WRONG’

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S name may have been spelt wrong in published versions of his writing, according to six unearthed signatures of the late poet.

[Express; London,_UK; 2019-04-23]

The History of English and the Pedagogy of Belonging

Middle English became open to discussions about creolization. The British Middle Ages emerged as a bi-, if not a tri-lingual period. When Caxton asked what form of English would be suitable for printing literature, we debated the questions of social and regional variation. The history of spelling became a history of impositions, and I came to realize that one of the major reasons for the split between our modern spellings and pronunciations was the conviction of certain pedagogues and scholars of the 18th century that spelling should preserve historical, rather than current, forms.

[Los_Angeles_Review_of_Books; Los_Angeles,_CA,_US; 2019-04-23]

I don’t think so you are right

Learning English can be fun, if you get to learn about its usage through chonological anecdotes and common errors.

Did you know the informal word for man or fellow – Bloke comes from the Indian word loke? Or even the longest word that can be spelt without repeating a letter is Uncopyrightable. It’s it fun to know these small things from our daily usage in the English language?

[Asian_Age,_The; New_Delhi,_IN; 2019-04-22]

Honour, not honor

Western University changes 'un-Canadian' diploma spelling

Western University, a Canadian institution that’s used the American spelling of a word commonly found on its diplomas and other materials for 141 years, has finally reversed its policy.

[London_Free_Press,_The; Toronto,_ON,_CA; 2019-04-22]

Mind our language

Prince Charles has sparked an insular furore by writing in a world language. Will English fundamentalisms never cease?

Historically, the English have had an easy relationship with spelling. Their language is a salad bowl of autochthonous material, along with Roman, Nordic and Romance imports. One of the oldest English songs describes the loud song of the cuckoo as “lhude sing cuccu”, and it never bothered anyone. The trouble started when Dr Johnson systematised the vocabulary and schools fell in line, insisting on standard spellings.

[Indian_Express,_The; Noida,_UP,_IN; 2019-04-20]

Ize on the prize: is Prince Charles the last guardian of British spelling?

There has been much spluttering about the prince’s use of ‘Americanisms’ in a letter to Emmanuel Macron, but the truth is more complicated.

He wrote: “I realize only too well what a truly special significance the Cathedral holds at the heart of your nation.” It’s the “-ize” that has set people off. Aren’t the royal family supposed to be the guardians of this kind of thing? It’s as though Olivia Colman moved to Los Angeles, swore off tea and vowed never to use the word “Blighty” again. The ravens have left the tower.

[Guardian,_The; London,_UK; 2019-04-18]

Dyslexia group hosts symposium at Temple to highlight science of reading

The group is bringing attention to a need for systematic teaching of phonics and language.

“You look in our communities with the violence. You look in our jail systems. Those guys are crying out that they need help. It’s not saying that [they] need help with reading, but when you look at the correlation of the reading scores and the prison population, the unemployment rate, and every other negative statistic, and you see reading right there. We all know what needs to happen for all of our children to be equipped and to have an equal playing field in life. […] That’s why teachers need to understand how to teach children how to read. It’s so important,” said Johnstone.

[Notebook,_The; Philadellphia,_PA,_US; 2019-04-18]

Meghan is NOT writing Charles' letters, he just likes using 15th Century English

Prince's eccentric spellings are explained after Royal watchers object to 'Americanisms' in letter to Macron after Notre Dame fire

Despite the touching message, many of the royal's 714,000 followers were distracted by the 'Americanised' spellings - a day after fans claimed Meghan is running the SussexRoyal Instagram account, due to US words and phrases in the captions. Arguing that the future King should stick to British English, fans pointed out that 'agonizing, realize and civilizaton' were used in the letter, as opposed to 'agonising, realise and civilisaton'.

[Mail_Online; London,_UK; 2019-04-17]

The History of the Spelling Bee

Even in the age of autofill, America is still in love with the centuries-old tradition

In May, hundreds of kids from all over the United States and a handful of other countries will arrive in Washington, D.C., having sacrificed many hundreds of hours of free time to a singular kind of intensive study. In the most extreme cases, they will have tried to memorize every word in a nearly 3,000-page dictionary. I know the work they have put into preparing for their big day and the pressure they will be feeling, because I was one of them.

[Smithsonian; Washington,_DC,_US; 2019-04-17]

Solved: The social media mystery of Prince Charles and the 'American' spelling

When the Prince of Wales published a letter of condolence to the French president after the Notre-Dame fire, he intended to convey to the nation his heartfelt sympathies. He may not have expected to become embroiled in one of the more bizarre royal internet conspiracy theories to date, nor to have inadvertently educated a generation in the finer points of 17th century English spelling.

[Telegraph,_The; London,_UK; 2019-04-17]

Line of Duty viewers can’t get over spelling blunder

Line Of Duty’s latest episode had fans up in arms.

Line of Duty fans were caught off-guard on Sunday night when they seemingly found themselves in the middle of a primary school English lesson. As the race was on to discover who ‘H’ is, a message popped up on the screen from the currently unknown perpetrator. It read: “Eastfield Depot is definately high risk,” notably spelling the word “definitely” wrong. Viewers rushed to social media after spotting the error to question how a mastermind of police corruption wouldn’t be able to spell basic words correctly.

[Daily_Star; London,_UK; 2019-04-15]

Linguists found the ‘weirdest languages’ – and English is one of them

Is English “weird”? Many of us might feel this is true when we’re trying to explain the complex spelling rules of the language, or the meanings of idioms such as “it’s raining cats and dogs” to someone who is learning English. Teaching or learning any language is, however, never an easy task.

[Conversation,_The; London,_UK; 2019-04-12]

Being Letter-Perfect Casts Its Spell

Duz speling evan mattar enymore?

After all, you knew what I meant, right? Companies deliberately misspell brand names (Froot Loops, Tumblr, Chick-fil-A). TV news graphics are rife with errors ("high tempertures," "choaos in streets"). And don't even get me started on emails, texts and internet posts.

[Creators; Hermosa_Beach,_CA,_US; 2019-04-10]

When Language Started a Political Revolution

Will Brexit fracture the UK? Ireland, for example, has its own cultural identity and language, which are perhaps more linked to Europe than to England.

Irish used to use its own writing system, Ogham, before it moved to the Latin alphabet and had to do the best with what that imperfect system could give. Full of strings of vowels and consonants clumped bewilderingly together, such as in “bhfaighidh” “will get” (which is pronounced almost as a monosyllable), Irish spelling looks so weird and unwieldy from an English spelling perspective, that Irish names like Saoirse, Siobhan, and Niamh are often mispronounced by non-Irish speakers who want to sound out every letter the English way.

[Jstor_Daily; New_York,_NY,_US; 2019-04-10]

Why do girls outperform boys on reading tests around the world?

All around the world, girls outperform boys on reading tests. Why is this?

[OUP_Blog; Oxford,_UK; 2019-04-06]

A case for why both sides in the ‘reading wars’ debate are wrong — and a proposed solution

This is an unusual post about the “reading wars,” that seemingly never-ending battle about how to best teach reading to students — systematic phonics or whole language. This argues that both sides have it wrong, and the authors, two brothers who are literacy experts, suggest a new way.

[Washington_Post,_The; Washington,_DC,_US; 2019-03-27]

‘Why I love the English language and all its weirdities’

Because of its structure and the way it has been created over the centuries, English is accepted as being one of the more difficult languages to learn, which to me makes it all the more surprising that it is swiftly becoming the ‘lingua franca’ of the whole world, taking over to a large extent from French, which held the honor for many years.

[Starts_at_60; Brisbane,_QLD,_AU; 2019-03-21]

Meddling with words shows off their mettle

“Medal,” “metal,” “meddle” and “mettle” are examples of homophones. Homophones are a type of homonym that sound alike, have different meanings and also have different spellings.

[Journal_Gazette,_The; Fort_Wayne,_IN,_US; 2019-03-16]

Burnley Spelling Bee finalists announced after closely-fought semi

The finalists of a Burnley-wide primary school spelling competition have been revealed after a closely-fought semi-final saw the deserving word-wizards earn their chances to be crowned spelling champions.

"All of the children had worked really hard to learn their spellings and the speed at which they were saying them was astonishing," said one of the organisers. "It felt like some of the children had forgotten to breathe!"

[Burnley_Express; Burnley,_UK; 2019-03-14]

Languages are too big for academies to tame

Members of the Académie française have swords but no power

[subscription] IT IS HARD to imagine now, but once upon a time a prominent writer in English envied the powerful role of an authoritarian French institution. The writer was Jonathan Swift, who in 1712 wrote to the Earl of Oxford that the “daily corruptions” of English were outpacing its “improvements”. The Académie française had been founded to stop exactly that process, and Swift called for an English Academy to do the same.

[Economist,_The; London,_UK; 2019-03-14]

Spelling may be a lost art, but there is help

I sometimes have trouble spelling such words as “seperating.”

I know, I spelled “separating” incorrectly. Fortunately, my spell-check program caught my mistake and I made the change. I’m not alone in making spelling errors.

[Grand_Haven_Tribune; Grand_Haven,_MI,_US; 2019-03-11]

'Forbearance' pays off: India International School in Japan student wins 10th Japan Times Bee

The winning word was “forbearance,” meaning “patience,” and Ariya Narayanasamy may be representative of the word — going through more than two dozen rounds of unceasing demands to spell sometimes arcane words accurately and pick correct definitions without making a single mistake.

[Japan_Times,_The; Tokyo,_JP; 2019-03-11]

H is for Harry review – hard lessons to be learned

This heartbreaking documentary charts the struggles of a year-seven pupil from a disadvantaged background – and offers no easy answers

Harry is a white working-class boy: the demographic that gets the worst GCSE results. His dad left school illiterate, so did his grandad. Not yet a teenager, Harry can already picture a future in which he is homeless – it’s heartbreaking.

[Guardian,_The; London,_UK; 2019-03-07]

What did Oxford do to deserve this?

Annette Ginn, one of the technical writers at kdm communications, discusses the Oxford z.

Despite widespread belief that ‘z’ spellings originate from the US, it seems that the ‘-ize’ forms have been used in UK English since the 15th century, with the verb ‘organize’ first appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 1425.

[Cambridge_Network; Cambridge,_UK; 2019-03-05]

Is there a question mark over the apostrophe’s future?

It has its diehard fans, but do we really need this punctuation mark?

If we don’t need apostrophes in speaking, why do we need them in writing? Can’t we just get rid of them? German has made a move in that direction. Wie geht es? “How’s it going?” is usually abbreviated to Wie gehts?. Before the spelling reform of 1996, this was most often written with an apostrophe: Wie geht’s, but in the new reformed spelling system, the apostrophe is no longer necessary. Punctuation generally is a vitally important tool for indicating features of the spoken language, like intonation, which cannot otherwise be indicated in writing. But this is not true of English apostrophes.

[New_European,_The; Norwich,_UK; 2019-03-05]

How Ong Ye Kung learnt to pronounce 'bar-ber' and struggled with English

Education Minister Ong Ye grew up in a Chinese-speaking family and struggled with English though school.

"I grew up in a Chinese-speaking family, and read only Chinese comics when I was young," he said. "I entered Primary 1 without being able to speak or read much English. My late mother, a Chinese teacher, tried to coach me, but her English was also limited. Then sometime in Primary 3, I had a eureka moment, when I figured out that if 'b-a-r' reads 'bar', and 'b-e-r' reads 'ber', and if I put the two together it became 'bar-ber'. In other words, I figured out phonics.

[Straits_Times,_The; Singapore,_SG; 2019-03-05]

Britain’s battle to get to grips with literacy is laid bare in H is for Harry

New documentary reveals difficulties facing white, working-class boys

Harry is a white working-class boy, the demographic that does least well at school. His story shines a light on a scarcely believable fact: that in the 21st century, in one of the most developed countries in the world, one in five children leave primary school unable to read or write properly. Nine million adults in the UK are functionally illiterate, and one in four British five-year-olds struggles with basic vocabulary. The cost to the economy is put at more than £37bn a year by the World Literacy Foundation.

[Guardian,_The; London,_UK; 2019-03-03]

Child Genius 2019: what time it’s on Channel 4 tonight and what to expect from Richard Osman’s show

Richard Osman will be putting the 19 contenders between the ages of 8 and 12 through their paces to win the coveted title

The search to find 2019’s child genius has begun with the new Channel 4 TV series. The first episode will feature two rounds based on language skills. The contenders will be tasked with spelling out some of the most complicated words in the English dictionary.

[iNews; London,_UK; 2019-03-01]

Identifying students with dyslexia in middle, high school

This is Part One of a five-part series about how to support and accommodate middle-schoolers, high-schoolers and adults with dyslexia.

I’ve had many older students confess to me that they would rather be thought of as defiant than stupid. Many students with undiagnosed dyslexia suffer from anxiety. Depending on the severity of their language challenges, the student may opt out of activities to avoid being put on the spot or placed under pressure to perform.

[Smart_Brief; Washington,_DC,_US; 2019-02-28]

Nine Surprising Facts About the English Language

If you read and listen to our Everyday Grammar program each week, you know it has detailed explanations of grammar, sentence structure and language usage. The show provides a lot of information for English learners.

[Voice_of_America; Washington,_DC,_US; 2019-02-28]

14 Everyday Words Nearly Everyone Misspells

If you’ve ever second-guessed yourself while trying to spell words like “beautiful,” “receipt,” and “license,” and turned to Google for help, you’re far from the only one.

For better or worse, the days of flipping through a dictionary to find how to spell something are all but over. Whenever we’re uncertain about how to spell a word, the correct spelling is only a few quick keystrokes away. Thanks to data from SEMrush, we’ve found the words that people Google how to spell most often—and many of them are probably words you use all the time.

[Reader's_Digest; New_York,_NY,_US; 2019-02-22]

Adult literacy app competition awards $3M to teams with most progress for users

Former governor Jeb Bush announced the winners of the first phase of the $7 Million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition at the annual Florida Celebration of Reading on Feb. 7. Two teams split the $3 million grand prize for overall performance of the mobile applications they developed to improve literacy among adult learners. The competition began on former first lady Barbara Bush’s birthday in 2015 and included 109 development teams from 15 countries. Both winning teams also received a $1 million “achievement prize” for the best performance among native English speakers and English learners, the competition’s two key demographics.

[Street_Sense_Media; Washington,_DC,_US; 2019-02-22]

More children around the world are being taught in English, often badly

If children or teachers do not understand the language of instruction, they cannot learn or teach properly

[subscription] Private schools have been mushrooming in India—private-sector enrolment rose from around a quarter of pupils in 2010-11 to over a third in 2016-17—and in Sarojini Nagar there are 200 registered private schools and many more unregistered ones. One of their main attractions is that the great majority of them use (or claim to use) English as the language of instruction.

[Economist,_The; London,_UK; 2019-02-21]

Meet the grammar guardian who finds sloppiness literally! Everywhere

Benjamin Dreyer loves Oxford commas, hates British spellings and can’t say ‘stinky’ out loud.

His new book, Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, is the climax (so far) of his nearly three decades in the copy-editing business, and it shows his playful sense of humour as well as his deep appreciation for clear writing and good language. The book is full of no-nonsense pronouncements on matters like the Oxford comma (the final comma in series such as red, blue, and green; use it, he says) and the word “literally” (use it at your peril). It is also idiosyncratic, because writing style is highly personal, subject to an individual’s taste and whim.

[Irish_Times,_The; Dublin,_IE; 2019-02-15]

Calling All Students to Join Free, Fun Online Spelling Competition!

Students in the United States are invited to put their spelling skills to the test in Word Mania USA, the worlds biggest online literacy competition.

LiteracyPlanet U.S. Commercial Director Ashley O’Connor said she was looking forward to seeing children in the U.S. rise to the challenge: “Word Mania is a great way for students to improve literacy skills while having fun. It’s been shown to improve a variety of literacy skills including phonics, spelling, vocabulary and word knowledge and we see an average 36 per cent improvement in scores over the competition.”

[Global_Banking_&_Finance_Review; London,_UK; 2019-02-13]

Hinson wins two spelling bees at Hilltop

Catherine Hinson, a sixth grader at Hilltop Montessori School, won two different school spelling bees held on campus recently. One bee was held in English in the traditional spelling bee format and a second one was held all in Spanish.

[280_Living; Homewood,_AL,_US; 2019-02-12]

DPS International Student wins Ghana Spelling Bee title

There was wild and spontaneous jubilation as the 13-year old Grade Eight pupil of DPS International Ghana, Kwabena Adu Darko-Asare, emerged the overall winner of the 12th edition of the National Finals of The Spelling Bee held on 2nd Feb 2019.

[Ghana_Web; Accra,_GH; 2019-02-12]

Seoul to correct spelling errors on street signs

The move comes after media reports that there are many ― some critical ― mistakes on signs written in English, Chinese and Japanese. Errors include an English sign calling a post office a hospital and another one spelling gallery as "gallerly."

[Korea_Times,_The; Seoul,_KR; 2019-02-12]

Improve English writing skills

British Council offers courses to improve writing in English.

If you find it very difficult to start writing or come up with ideas, find short topics or questions and just practice writing continuously for five to ten minutes. The idea is to write without stopping, not worrying about spelling or grammar. Use a timer to time yourself in order to avoid stopping. Students who do “quick writes” daily will see an increase in written fluency and creativity in conceiving ideas, and have ongoing practice in a meaningful but less pressured way.

[Sun_Daily,_The; Selangor,_MY; 2019-02-12]

A Style Guide for the 1 Percent

The new grammar and usage handbook by Benjamin Dreyer, Twitter’s premier grammarian, reinforces an elitist view of writing and language.

The rules that govern English usage have never been particularly democratic. Why do we take “cues” but stand in “queues”? Why do we wake up “every day” but tolerate “everyday” annoyances? In the introduction to Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer, the longtime copy chief at Random House, quotes an acquaintance’s comparison of copy editors to “priests, safeguarding their faith.”

[Nation,_The; Lagos,_NG; 2019-02-11]

Writing proper English: let's call it an act of resistance

Spend more than a few minutes in the word business – I've spent going on 30 years in it, as a proofreader, copy editor, publishing-house copy chief and, recently, the author of a guide to writing style – and you'll quickly learn that the English language, to say nothing of its practitioners, is irrational, irregular and anarchic. You can choose either to embrace that or to rail against it, but I assure you that the former is more fun and less taxing.

[Sydney_Morning_Herald,_The; Sydney,_NSW,_AU; 2019-02-11]

Why study English? We’re poorer in every sense without it

Fewer are taking the subject at A-level and university. Are they being put off by the way government says it must be taught?

The lack of science, maths and language teachers has been talked about for years. But a shortage of English teachers has gone under the radar.

[Guardian,_The; London,_UK; 2019-02-10]

Spelling bees? No, but they can do arithmetic, say researchers

Study says honeybees can learn to carry out exact numerical calculations

Honeybees can learn to add and subtract, according to research showing that while the insects have tiny brains, they are still surprisingly clever.

[Guardian,_The; London,_UK; 2019-02-06]

Etymology gleanings for December 2018 and January 2019

The progress of Spelling Reform

The Society’s work is going on well.

[OUP_Blog; Oxford,_UK; 2019-02-06]

Sats: why etymology boosts vocabulary and spelling

Breaking words down to uncover meaning helps learning, says Aidan Severs as he offers five ways to introduce etymology

"This lesson just got interesting," exclaimed one of my more vocal pupils. No, I hadn’t just introduced the latest piece of edtech or revealed laminated resources that took me all evening to prepare. I wasn’t even crouching in a home-made cage dressed as an elephant (yeah, I did that once). All I did was look up the etymology of a word.

[TES; London,_UK; 2019-02-04]

A grammarian on levels of spelling tolerance

007: License to Kill. Or is it Licence?

If you ever wonder whether to use licence or license, there’s a pattern you can call on: License and practise are trickier without the z sound in the -ise, so it’s a good memory aid. Americans don’t bother with this ise/ice distinction, sticking with -ice, which, given the inevitable Americanisation of the world, possibly adds to New Zealanders’ confusion.

[Noted; Auckland,_NZ; 2019-02-02]

Mistakes are the engine of language’s evolution

An apron was once a napron, an adder a nadder

[paywall] Take the child collecting different kinds of animals in a video game: “I got a new specie!”, he cries. The source of the mistake is obvious. The child has heard the slightly rarefied word “species” and assumed it was the plural of something called a specie. Children do this kind of thing all the time as they learn language; generalising from things previously heard and rules previously mastered is the only way they can progress with such speed. In most cases, errors disappear on their own.

[Economist,_The; London,_UK; 2019-01-31]

Why spelling and grammar rules are broken

I wonder if my generation has harrumphed forever about the correct use of written English because we found satisfaction in gloating over younger people, because we clung to that superiority in a world leaving us behind.

[Newcastle_Herald,_The; Newcastle,_NSW,_AU; 2019-01-27]

Anger over spelling of Irish names on transport passes

Irish transport authority blames ‘technical limitation’ for lack of fadas on Leap cards

The fada – a slanting line over a vowel – is a way of indicating a particular pronunciation or meaning in Irish. Seán is the Irish version of John whereas sean means old. The state agency blamed a “technical limitation” for its rendering of Bríd as Brid, Sinéad as Sinead, Séamus as Seamus and a host of other errors.

[Guardian,_The; London,_UK; 2019-01-21]

20 words that are spelled the same but have different meanings

There are plenty of words in the English language that are spelled the same but have completely different meanings.

It's no secret that the English language can be tricky. For anyone learning the language, it's difficult to grasp all the drastic differences a single word can have. People most get tripped up on words that are too similar. When words are spelled the same and sound the same but have different meanings, then they are called homonyms. When they are just spelled the same but sound different and have different meanings, then they are homographs.

[Insider; New_York,_NY,_US; 2019-01-08]

15 of the Hardest Words to Spell in the English Language

The English language is full of words that seem overstuffed with unnecessary letters, feel like they should be spelled a different way, or just don’t make sense.

[Reader's_Digest; New_York,_NY,_US; 2019-01-07]

If You Can Correctly Pronounce Every Word in This 1920s Poem, You’re Among the English-Speaking Elite

As The Poke points out, a poem written in 1920 perfectly encapsulates the baffling nature of English. In fact, it's so tricky that even native English speakers with college degrees may struggle to get through it without botching a word.

[Mental_Floss; New_York,_NY,_US; 2019-01-01]

Page editor: N Paterson. Contact by email or form.