I recently received a newsletter from Extinction Rebellion (XR), the movement of students fighting for climate action. The message was that the movement is taking root, and needs support – by joining or donating money, time or space.
The newsletter began “The seeds have been sewn. Compassion; awareness; courage.”
My first response was as an editor – “Oh no, a typo in the first sentence!” My next thought, as I read through the newsletter, was that it is a good analogy.
Then my internal critic kicked in and said maybe they should stay in school and learn to spell – and in the same moment I was embarrassed to realise I was echoing those who refuse to listen to their message, saying the kids should “just get back to school”.
Spelling will be of no use to our children and grandchildren if governments don’t act now to prevent a climate emergency.
The newsletter was actually sent from the UK, but many young Australians can’t spell either, and substitute a word that sounds the same for the correct word (homonyms). Generations of Australians have been failed by the systems of learning to read and write – are these students likely to learn by attending school instead of climate rallies? On the other hand, Pam Peters mentions that “When surrounding words help to settle the meaning, it seems rather unnecessary to insist on differentiated spellings. American writers who use fewer of them have no obvious difficulties in communicating.”
Perhaps whoever wrote it has never read a gardening book. I hope that these young people will have a chance to sow seeds of many trees in their lifetime, and see them grow and thrive. I hope they’ll have time to read some gardening books, too.
For those who want to learn to distinguish homonyms like sewn and sown, refer to my post How to use a Kindle Paperwhite to become a better writer.
Pam Peters, The Cambridge Australian English Style Guide, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995
Extinction Rebellion News post: Rebel Daily 2: The Rebellion Takes Root, October 09, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion