The Typo- Pandemic

Call me crazy.  Call me old-school.  In fact, call me anything, just spell it correctly please.  Am I unaccompanied when I notice a big threat to the use of our written language?  It remains appalling to see how many spelling errors and grammar mistakes appear on websites of supposed professional companies.  It is becoming obvious that children and adults alike struggle with spelling English words.  This had me pondering the reasons for this threatening assault of the typo-pandemic:


Instead of looking at the educational system, I firstly want to turn to the parenting skills and discover what has changed over the last century.  Families cannot rely on one bread-winner any longer and therefore most mothers need to have a full-time job.  Yet the sacrifice is often overlooked.  Parents do not have the energy to spend quality time with their children any longer.  It is far easier to rely on a television programme or a movie to occupy the little ones while supper gets made.  Parents reading to their children is becoming a dying tradition it seems.


The second possibility, in conjunction with the first, for the predicament of the lack of spelling skills can surely be found in our educational system.  Learners are being educated in their vernacular language from entering school.  When they proceed to High school the vernacular language suddenly gets exchanged for English.  In High school all subjects are presented in the English language.  Clearly the lack of understanding the principles of a language will be problematic when one gets forced to use it on a much higher level later on in live.

Generation Y

Thirdly, we can turn our attention to the new generation of people – Generation Y.  This generation has the need for instant gratification.  There is no time in this high paced lifestyle to read a two hundred page book only to hear a story.  There are so many other ways of hearing stories like movies, Internet, computer games etc.  The lack of time in our new society becomes apparent when looking at the widely spread social media that people are confronted with in each aspect of their lives.  Instead of a phone call one can now SMS, BBM and WhatsApp to stay in contact with friends and family.

New Spelling Styles

On these applications alone there is a new way of spelling developing.  Phrases like  ‘how R U?’, ‘LOL’, etc.  Pictures of smiley faces replaces the supposed unnecessary spelling of words.  Instead of a visit people email and FaceBook ultimately with its own unique spelling and takes preference.  Subsequently the tradition of Sunday lunches with family dies away in the reality of teenagers in front of computer screens ‘Lanning’  through the night, parents occupied by the latest series of Survivor and the senior citizens looked after by qualified nurses in secure retirement villages conveniently out of the way of busy schedules.

Is spelling correctly not a priority anymore.

I recently read an article on the Internet in which Ian McNeilly, of the National Association for the Teaching of English, told the TES  in reply to the shocking spelling of students in exams, that: “it is possible to achieve top grades in exams with poor spelling

He continued to say:  “I’m not saying that we make spelling a huge priority over understanding, analysis and interpretation.  But students should be able to spell securely. It’s an ongoing battle, that isn’t helped by wider society.”

Professor John Wells, emeritus professor of phonetics at University College London said:

“People should be free to use whichever spelling they prefer. Text messaging and email language is the ‘way forward’, there are ‘more important things in life’ than the ability to sort out their, there and they’re.”

The consequences

What is the future going to look like when there are no more people in the world with the ability to spell correctly?  I can predict that immense confusion would be the order of the day.  Like a modern day Tower of Babylon. Pandemic turning into pandemonium.  This will in turn affect communication with others.  The consequences of this in turn will affect the internet, all business industries, the economy.  In fact I cannot think of any aspect of life as we know it that will not be affected by complete loss of communication with others.  Who will record our life on this planet so that one day it will be part of history?

The solution

At home we can fight the typo-pandemic by starting to read to our children again, eliminate the typos out of our own messages, look up words we do not understand in those wonderful treasures called dictionaries, (OK you can use Google if you really want).  Take a stand against BBM and WhatsApp language and spell out words to save our precious communication for the people who will be there after we have left.

If you feel as passionate about the issue and have any ideas or suggestions I would love to hear from you.

Happy spelling!

Tinka Oberholzer


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