English 100 Tipsheet #5

Essay #5: Argument: Does Spelling Matter?

Begin by reading:

The writing assignment:

"Spelling Madders Matters" presents two distinct viewpoints (though the author is a bit soft-edged on her own opinion):

Choose a side, present and defend your position, using data and logic.

Discussion:

This essay is, in a sense, a capstone for your English 100 course, so you should apply everything you've learned to this point. In particular, you should apply lessons on clarity and support for your point. I can see at least two potential pitfalls in this assignment:

  1. Invective and abuse. An academic argument paper is nothing like the screaming between the coach and the umpire on the pitcher's mound, nor is it like the current brand of name-calling and insult we hear from politicians. Calling someone a "grammar Nazi" does not advance your side of the argument.
  2. Personal tales of woe. You may have suffered under a too-harsh English teacher who simply made you memorize rules and who made you feel like an idiot if you couldn't remember how to spell "percieve." That kind of story, if it fits this essay at all, is only a minor part.

The real question, and the point of your paper, is how closely we should enforce academic standards. This probably goes beyond English grammar. If someone is giving a speech (or a lecture in class) and simply shoots from the hip, inventing "facts" that seems to fit the narrative, is that a disqualifier? How strictly should we watch such things?

Is there a middle ground?

Brottman herself raises the question. Just for the record (and because I used to be a typesetter), here are the three types of hyphen things she discusses:

This is a hyphen - It goes between words to turn them into a single word (lily-livered).
This is an en dash – You usually see it to separate ranges of numbers (pages 9–12). It is the size of the letter n.
This is an em dash — It is a sentence-level punctuation similar to parentheses—but louder. It is the size of the letter m.

As I consider the alternatives posed by the assignment, I can see a range of possibilities (and each one would need both explanation and support):

So the bottom line here is to figure out what you think, support it with reasons and logic that go beyond your personal feelings, and present the result.


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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 7/21/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: callen@ashland.edu.