Spelling is becoming a lost art in our modern world. Weekly spelling tests, formerly a staple in an elementary student’s academic diet, have been rendered useless by technology. Microsoft Word has a spell check feature to point out and correct errors as you make them. When texting, an activity that encourages brevity and misspellings, there is no need to be perfect; just start typing a word and the auto correct feature will complete it for you. While it may not be the word you intended to use and it may not convey your message accurately, it will be spelled correctly. There are flaws in every system.
In ancient times few people learned to read and write. Individuals who possessed these skills were revered and held most of the power. People who couldn’t read or write were often duped out of their money or property. Oh, how times have changed. Now, there is no glory in being a good speller. It’s not something you can boast about on a resume. Unless you are the winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, it won’t earn you any money. No one dumps Gatorade on the winner of a spelling bee then carries them from the stage on their shoulders as a crowd chants their name. There is a quiet dignity about being a good speller.
I’m not national spelling bee quality. In 7th grade, I was knocked out of our town-wide spelling bee when I misspelled the word hyacinth; a word I haven’t misspelled since that fateful evening. I’ll admit that I am a spelling snob, but I am selective about my snobbery. Spelling errors in text messages, e-mails and other informal writing don’t irritate me. Everyone makes typos or answers a message quickly without proofreading it. However, the words you use when writing a resume, business letter or tattoo should be spelled correctly. If you can’t spell the words you want to use, choose ones that you can spell, use spell check or ask a human who is a better speller than you. There is no shame in being a bad speller, but if you are, admit it and seek help. There are so many resources now available for those who are orthographically challenged.
Being a bad speller is not a crime unless you do what this woman did. In an effort to get some paid time off from work, she allegedly wrote a letter to her employer claiming it was an official letter from the court requesting her appearance for jury duty. When she substituted the words, trial, cited and manager with the words “trail”, “sited” and “manger”, the jig was up and she was charged with forgery. To be fair, the words she allegedly wrote were spelled correctly. They were just the wrong words altogether. I’m sure there is some computer program that detects this type of error, but proofreading what she had written would have been a good place to start. Having blind allegiance to spell check can sometimes backfire if you correctly spell a completely different word than the one you had intended.
Certain misspellings are socially acceptable. Businesses like Dunkin’ Donuts and ShopRite intentionally misspelled their names. I’m sure they have their reasons. Maybe it was cheaper to make a sign with fewer letters. Maybe they thought it sounded more marketable. Whatever the reason, it just perpetuates poor spelling.
Sometimes spelling mistakes leave a lasting impression. Recently, I was stuck in traffic behind a commercial truck for an auto body shop with the following words painted on it: “We buy used tireds, motos and junck cars.” This message wasn’t just painted on the back of the truck; it was also painted on the side. This gave me a good laugh, but I do not think that was the reaction the business owner had in mind when he paid money to have those words painted on his truck. Not long after that incident, I saw a sign etched into the window of a nail salon, “acrilyc nails.” Perhaps the owners of these businesses weren’t good spellers or maybe English is not their primary language, but the professional sign makers who painted those words ought to be able to spell. It is a skill necessary for their occupation. If you are going make a career of etching words into glass, painting them on buildings and trucks or tattooing them on people’s skin, those words should be spelled correctly. Carpenters follow the motto: measure twice and cut once. Sign makers should follow a similar one: check twice, paint once. Perhaps it is standard business practice to spell the words exactly as a client has provided them. Even if that is the case, don’t they feel compelled to correct the error, or, at a bare minimum, point it out to the client?
Please don’t get me wrong, English spelling is a nightmare. There are words that look the same, but sound different like good and food. Then, there are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently like to, two and too. As English evolved it sampled words from just about every language known to mankind. Sometimes the original spelling was kept. Other times it was Anglicized to suit the whims of whoever was in charge of making those types of decisions. Because of this, there are silent letters, irregular spellings, rules that govern spelling and just as many exceptions to those rules. With a language this inconsistent, errors are inevitable. The lessen two bee learned hear is that if ewe are righting something, fore the love of Dog, proofread and yews spell check.
** Many thanks to the ladies of frugalistadotcom and Earthriderdotcom for honoring me with the Versatile Blogger Award. Now that you are done reading this post, why not pop over to check out their blogs? **