This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Unnecessary bits: a rant

Sugata Mitra is professor of educational technology at Newcastle University.

In a recent interview with the Times Educational Supplement, he is quoted as saying: 'This emphasis on grammar and spelling, I find it a bit unnecessary because they are skills that were very essential maybe a hundred years ago but they are not right now.'

Now, I'm a writer of fiction, so imagination is supposed to be my strong suit. But I'm having trouble conjuring up an image of a manager thinking: this CV has been written by someone very careless, or possibly merely illiterate. This person will be an asset to my business.

I must admit I'm not bending my whole mind to the job, though, because I keep finding myself wondering out how something can be a bit unnecessary.

Or, indeed, very essential.

Professor Mitra suggests that a mobile phone can be used to correct all our deficiencies of spelling and grammar.

I rather doubt that.

But, even if it's true, a phone can't stop people speaking ungrammatical rubbish, can it?

Word To Use Today: unnecessary. This word arrived in English in the 1300s, from the Latin necessārius, which means indispensable, from necesse, unavoidable.




  1. Oh my!! I can't believe such garbage came out of the mouth of an educated man!
    While he's at it, he might as well tell us to stop thinking for ourselves!
    Unnecessary indeed! Ptooey on that noise!

    1. Thanks, Jingles. More from Professor Mitra in next week's thrilling installment*...

      *Or possibly instalment. I must find out more about Canadian and Australian spelling.

    2. There are different situations requiring different levels of precision in language. If you're chatting with mates down at the pub, it's not too important if your grammar is less than perfect. However, the problem is when people don't know how to use correct grammar when the situation requires, such as CVs, letter writing, interviews, etc.

      Also, I can never write 'grammar' without first thinking of my lovely late grandma. Aww.

    3. I suppose there's a correct grammar for every occasion, Ed.

      The trouble is that discouraging people from using standard grammar is a hugely effective way of keeping them in their places.