Watch What You Write: This page is devoted to defending the English language and encouraging disciplined writing. Our regular contributor will be Adrianne LeMan who will seize on sloppy writing and firmly remind us of the need to write correctly. However, we welcome other contributors. Just send your piece or any comments on what we have published to editor@adasia.com.sg


Adrianne LeMan

English spelling is frequently bizarre. A few “rules” – the most commonly cited of which is “i before e, except after c” – can help, but they are often broken, and for no apparent reason. Neither “seize” nor “weird”, for example, contains a “c”, but in both “e” comes before “i”.

We double-up the “l” in words such as “channelled” yet use a single “t” in “benefiting” and a single “s” in “focusing” and “busing” (“bussing” is a synonym for “kissing”). “Instalment” has one “l”, but “installation” has two. Then there’s the problem of words such as “dependant” (which is a noun) and “dependent” (which is an adjective).

“Honour” keeps the “u” in “honourable”, but “humour” and “glamour” lose it in “humorous” and “glamorous”.

No, there’s no logic in it, it’s just the way it is.

The problem is compounded by the differences in spelling between US English and UK English. I want to protect our spelling – which, no surprise, I prefer – but it’s hard for children to remember how to spell “adviser”, for example, when they constantly see it as “advisor” on TV credits, and even more confusing when we spell “advisory” with an “o”.

I suppose that it’s inevitable that some US spelling will become the standard in the UK. I will try hard to live with it as long as we don’t succumb to using monstrous words such as “burglarized” instead of “burgled”.


Adrianne LeMan ran a UK company for many years with a team that wrote and edited annual reports, websites, brochures, etc, for a wide range of major companies. She now works as a freelance writer/editor – again assisting major companies. She is interested in words: their use, and misuse, the way they are spelled and the way they look. Adrianne also keeps a close eye on the use, and misuse, of language, which she feels should be clear and to the point.