Anecdotes abound of bright pupils - and sometimes even teachers - making basic spelling errors such as "docters".
Today we're digesting a stunning Scottish government report which indicates only 33% of 14-year-olds achieve expected standards in writing.
Early primary children are meeting expected standards
And in reading the figure is, at 40%, little better.
The big question is - where do we go from here?
The good news is that little needs to be done in early primary.
A move in recent years to teach children to read in a simpler, clearer way seems to have paid off.
Variations on the synthetic phonics scheme are ensuring virtually all children are doing well in primary three.
But it is a steady decline after that.
West Dunbartonshire, which appears to buck the trend, offers pointers for progress.
It is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland and yet surveys indicate virtually no pupils leave school functionally illiterate, as happens elsewhere.
Professor Tommy MacKay, a key figure in the council's scheme and a member of The Literacy Commission set up at arm's length by the Labour Party, has said that explicitly teaching children the sounds (phonics) letters make is part of the scheme's success.
In traditional style they learn to sound out the letters - for example p, i and n to establish the word is "pin".
That technique allows them to make a good stab at the majority of words. (Irregular words like "onion" and "yacht" are memorised.)
But Professor MacKay has indicated a new culture in schools has also played a critical role in success.
School Leaders Scotland, the representative body for head teachers and deputes, has called for all children to be assessed in literacy before they leave primary school
Much hard work has gone into establishing a long-term determination at every level in schools and the council's education department that no child shall be allowed to fail.
Professor MacKay has also indicated children's progress is regularly assessed so that staff can pick up on problems before they become entrenched.
School Leaders Scotland, the representative body for head teachers and deputes, has called for all children to be assessed in literacy before they leave primary school.
Scottish Conservatives maintain reliable national tests in primary 7 would offer children and teachers a clear standard to aim at and ensure fewer youngsters move up to secondary school without basic skills in place.
Opponents are concerned that such tests would put pressure on children - and teachers - who might be exposed to criticism if the test results for individual schools become available to the public.
Opponents also argue that literacy is primarily about expression and creativity - that spelling is a mindless skill which can be delegated to a computer spell checker.
The Scottish Government plans that assessment should take place around the age of 15. Further proposals may emerge in the months to come.