I agree with many of you about the following points: 1) Spelling is rhetorical (i.e., not correctness), 2) Spelling is genre-dependent, 3) Spelling has consequences, and 4) Spelling functions as a social (or cultural) capital.
But I want to extend the point that Rick made about comma splices. Like the lawyer's *conscious* use of comma splices, there are many situations where non-standard spelling is called for. Hackers, for example, use "z" instead of "s" for plural nouns to assert their identities. IM users insist on using various non-standard (but somewhat systematic) spelling to demonstrate their competence/familiarity with the net/popular culture (e.g. "pwn'd" for "owned," "n00bs" for "newbs" -- btw., lexical choice goes along with orthography.) Like Rob says, these non-standard spellings count as a cultural capital and are worth more in these specific, "local markets" (ref. to Bourdieu).
In our writing classrooms, on the other hand, our local markets value the standard orthography (along with different kinds of lexicon, syntax, etc.), and I would want my students to understand and make their writing reflect that value system (by using the standard spelling).
On a related note, I can think of several legitimate uses of non-standard spelling in writing classrooms. We could contrast documents in standard vs. non-standard spelling to discuss genre appropriateness, the rhetorical nature of spelling, etc. Also, strategic use of non-standard spelling by us (writing teachers who are not expected to use non-standard spelling) can signal solidarity with students.
Tosh Tachino, Ph.D.
Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication
University of Winnipeg
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