Welcome to my blog - a collection of thoughts and musings on the world of writing, books and all those wordy type things.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Does Spelling Matter?

Spelling is one of those things that seem to incite fairly different views - a bit like Marmite. Either bad spelling really bothers you or you're really not too bothered by it at all.

I fall into the first category and it seems that to some, this means I am labelled a pedant. I don't think that's necessarily true. It just means that I was taught that spelling was important and whilst I agree and accept that language changes, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse (don't even get me started on 'chillaxing'!), I still think there's a very big place for correct spelling.

When I read a book or a magazine then I expect things to be spelled correctly. After all, this is something I have paid money out for and these people are doing it for a living. And for the most part, things are, although I did come across a bit of a honker in a copy of Sew magazine a couple of issues back, and it wasn't an isolated incident. There does seem to be an issue with the production in some magazines, not so much with spelling, but with getting the 'right' version of words when there are two that sound the same. English is not an easy language as we have an abundance of such words to trip us up, but these are people who are being paid to publish something made of words. Shouldn't they therefore have higher standards?

The argument brought up against 'good' spelling is that language evolves and we shouldn't be so hung up on the idea of how something is actually written down, but should instead concentrate more on the meaning. I can see the point of this argument in that the meaning of something is obviously tantamount to the experience of reading, but to make it into a 'one or the other' choice is detrimental.

Pre school children can work smartphones and the like better than the actual owners in a lot of cases and that's understandable. They are being born into a world of technology that has moved on faster than almost, if not any, other period in history. It's part of their world. It's not 'new technology' to them, it's just there. It's normal. However, when children are handing in essays written in text speak, and are either losing the ability, or never even being taught how to really spell words, then we have a problem.

Arguing that they don't need to learn spelling because even homework is done on a computer these days, as handwriting becomes a lost art, is only a half truth. Yes, a computer can check the spelling, but is your computer set to the correct language? Not correcting 'color' for 'colour' isn't an error if the language default is still US English and you're writing for a UK audience, whether that's a teacher or a magazine readership. And of course, the other thing with computers is that they are checking for spelling but don't know the difference in context between there, their and they're, for example. All of these are correct but they don't all fit in the same hole.

Personally I don't think we're doing any favours with the lack of spelling education in the classrooms. It's like the lack of competition debate. Yes, I get the idea of not encouraging competition so that 'everyone's a winner'. That made sense in a meeting, I'm sure. But in reality? Perhaps less so. And this is coming from someone who was pretty much always in the last couple to be picked for sports teams. Teams were generally picked by the cliquey kids who were also often good at sport and I was neither cliquey not sporty, so whilst an attempt to make me feel more included would have been nice, I don't think it would have worked. Competition is part of human nature. It's going to happen. Out in the big wide world we have to fight for everything - including jobs, which is where we come back to the spelling issue.

One of my PA jobs involved opening the CVs (or resumes, depending where you are reading this) received whenever we had a employment opportunity. I had a pile that I'd hand to the boss and a pile that went to the shredder. My boss' first criteria was that he didn't want to see CVs or application letters that were full of mistakes. His view, and one held by many employers, was that if someone hadn't taken the time to get things right in the application, how much commitment would they have to their work? That might seem unfair but applicants get whittled down and that was the first hurdle. It's important to remember that, whatever technology gives us, spelling is not irrelevant.

I'm not saying choose spelling over creativity, not at all! I'm just hoping that we can have both.

As a last note, these thoughts are only about 'everyday' spelling. Issues like dyslexia, etc are obviously a lot more complex and are in no way being included in these thoughts. As someone who has both relatives and friends who deal with such struggles, I completely understand what a challenge these can be and would never trivialise such things.

I also realise that 'resume' should have an accent over the last 'e' but there doesn't seem to be any way to insert anything like this within Blogger. Perhaps I need to start writing the posts in Word and then copy and paste. If anyone does know any different, I'd love to hear from you.

So, am I being pedantic in liking things to be spelled correctly? What's your view?


  1. The odd word spelt incorrectly doesn't annoy me, but a page littered with them does.

    You'll find copying and pasting from Word into Blogger can be problematic, so always put it through notepad first, then do the formatting in blogger.

    1. Thanks for the advice, Carol. I'll try that!

  2. Bad spelling bugs me too, as does the Internet's insistence on American spelling. Bad grammar is another of my dislikes, and the greengrocers' apostrophe. What's 'chillaxing'?

    1. 'chillaxing' is basically chilling and relaxing, put into one word. As they both mean the same, the utter ridiculousness of it never fails to baffle me!


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