One question I was asked over and over as a teacher was “Does spelling count?” When I received the comment I’ve used in my title above on my website, I wished I were still teaching. The kids would have roared over that one and the lesson would have been easily learned.
Yes, spelling counts.
“Standardized spelling enables readers to understand writing, to aid communication and ensure clarity.” This quote from the Huffington Post Canada puts its case simply and leaves no room for all the dross of argument on the subject put forth by so many in our world of easily accessible technology today.
In a Lifestyle online article on the subject, eight reasons for an affirmative reply to the question of whether spelling counts include communication, standards, avoiding confusion, enabling future prospects, failures with SpellCheck, comprehension, distraction, and making a good impression. In spite of the Twitter-byte style of the type in that article, an annoying method of communication in my opinion, the points are well taken, even if the list is improperly set up with varying parts of speech describing the eight reasons why good spelling is important.
Communication: We need to write correctly so that our words are clear and easy to understand.
Standards: It is our language and some of us would like to preserve its lovely idiosyncrasies and see those maintained.
Avoidance of confusion: “Suck” and “such” have entirely different meanings and while the humor is welcomed for the purposes of this post, spelling words incorrectly can result in hurt feelings, gross insults or worse.
The enabling of future prospects: Those resumes full of spelling mistakes don’t even get looked at, especially if the position is for a job which demands an excellent facility with language.
Failures with SpellCheck: No one can rely on a computer to know all the intricacies of language with impunity. We must be able to see when the computer is wrong and, believe me, that happens all the time. Just ask a novelist about all the green underlining in Word for items which the computer deems incorrect. Same for grammar checkers.
Comprehension: Sometimes words are spelled so badly or so many errors can be found that the intended meaning of the sentence is lost. Believe me, I’ve seen it in the classroom and in writing critique groups.
Distraction: Picture it. You’re really immersed in that great book and can hardly wait to turn the page. Suddenly a word is misspelled. And then another one. Maybe even a third. Your mind switches away from the hero’s last words to his best friend. Instead you wonder why those words are spelled incorrectly. You are distracted. Do we as authors want that? Absolutely not.
The creation of a good impression: You are meeting the person you’ve spent much of your life idolizing and write an email finalizing the details. You rush. You don’t reread it. You miss grammar and spelling errors and even leave out important details such as where the meeting will take place. Your idol will definitely form an impression of you before ever seeing you. With an email like that, what do you suppose that impression will be?
Some of my dearest author friends make no secret of their lack of spelling acumen but their books shine with correctness and with intelligence, wit, and information. They know spelling is not their forte but they are smart enough to find someone to make sure their writing is correct. And that very action underlines the importance of correct spelling.
So, yes, spelling counts. I believe so strongly in this that I try very hard not to model bad spelling when I text my young grandchildren (8 years old). How can they learn what is correct if they don’t see it?
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