LECTURERS should turn a blind eye to common spelling mistakes, a teacher at Buckinghamshire New University has said.

Twenty of the most common mistakes such as "Febuary", "ignor" and "speach" should be overlooked said Dr Ken Smith of the High Wycombe-based university.

His comments - in the Times Higher Educational Supplement - have sparked a debate in the national media today over literacy.

Dr Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology at Buckinghamshire New University said: "Teaching a large first-year course at a British university, I am fed up with correcting my students' atrocious spelling. Aren't we all?

"But why must we suffer? Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea.

"University teachers should simply accept as variant spellings those words our students most commonly misspell."

He said: "Either we go on beating ourselves and our students up over this problem or we simply give everyone a break and accept these variant spellings as such.

"All I am suggesting is that we might well put 20 or so of the most commonly misspelt words in the English language on the same footing as those other words that have a widely accepted variant spelling."

His call was welcomed by The Spelling Society, which calls for simpler spellings based on how words sound.

But John Simpson, the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, told The Times: "There are enormous advantages in having a coherent system of spelling.

"It makes it easier to communicate. Maybe during a learning phase there is some scope for error, but I would hope that by the time people get to university they have learnt to spell."

Dr Smith highlighted examples including: Arguement for argument Why drop the "e" in argument (and judgment) but not management?

Ignor for ignore Ignore comes from the Latin ignorare, meaning "to know", and ignarus, meaning "ignorant". Neither of these words has an "e" after the "r", so why do we?

Occured for occurred There is no second "r" in the words "occur" or "occurs" and that is why nearly everyone misspells this word Opertunity for opportunity In Latin this word refers to the timely arrival at a harbour - Latin portus. But the Latin spelling is obportus, not opportus, so, if we were being consistent, we should spell "opportunity" as "obportunity"

Que for queue, or better yet cue or even kew Where did we get the second "ue" in the word "queue" and why do we need it?

Speach for speech We spell "speak" with an "ea". We do not have to but we do. Since we do, let us then spell "speech" with an "a" too Thier for their (or better still, why not just drop the word their altogether in favour of there?) It does not make any difference to the meaning of a sentence if you spell "their" as "thier" or "there", so why insist on "their"?

Truely for truly We don't spell the adverb "surely" as "surly" because this would make another word, so why is the adverb of "true" spelt "truly"?

Twelth as twelfth Twelf is related to the Frisian tweli, but why should we care? You would not dream of spelling "stealth" or "wealth" with an "f" so why do it in "twelfth"?