Friday, October 14, 2011

Spell Checker

I have a confession to make:

I am not a perfect speller.

Despite my anal grammarian ways and my celebration of all things accurate, the fact is, I sometimes spell poorly.

My brain seems to be hardwired with a predisposition for phonetics. I can't tell you how many times I've initially spelled words, sometimes even the most simplest ones, horribly wrong. "Door" becomes "Dore." "Month" becomes "Munth."

It's a quick fix when pounding away on a keyboard. It's an embarrassing error if it's not caught before I hit "send."

Years and years ago, I scored miserably on my grade school spelling tests. I may have been able to read newspapers at five-years-old, but it took me well into my teen years before I felt pretty comfortable with my spelling mastery.

My post-college years as a journalist gave me an expansive vocabulary. Expansive enough to have been acknowledged by two ex-boyfriends who each said they were uncomfortable with the variety of words that peppered my vernacular.

Let me say it again. This girl doesn't date dummys. Er. Dummies.

But we're talking about spelling mistakes, aren't we?

The earnest and impassioned 5chw4r7z has long argued that spelling accuracy is for the birds, at least where social media is concerned. For the most part, I agree with him. The penultimate point of social media is to be accurate and well informed; brevity is the first priority.

OtR gadfly and attorney Casey Coston always seems to catch me making the most egregious errors - on Facebook - and usually when I'm posting about something related to intelligence. It is the most hilarious occurrence of errors, and sometimes I wonder if my brain and fingers are having a joke at my expense.

Well played, synapses. Well played.

I have an incredible understanding of words and meaning. I also understand how important Spell Check is to the written word - my written word. If you're wondering, yes, Blogger has spell check. I use it religiously.

The thing is, some of the world's most influential writers were horrendous spellers. William Faulkner depended so heavily on his editors for typing, punctuation and spelling corrections. One editor said the errors were so numerous that they were never really certain if The Sound and The Fury was completely corrected.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were horrible spellers, too. The former's This Side of Paradise was called "one of the most illiterate books of any merit ever published." The latter, who started as a newspaper reporter, was repeatedly criticized by newspaper editors for his horrible spelling.

Jane Austen and I share similar spelling foibles.

Just about a year ago, British researchers shed light on her miserable spelling mistakes. She once called one of her teenage tomes, "Love and Freindship," and was also infamous for replacing "scissors" with "scissars."

Simple errors, but the understanding still transcends.

And that's the ultimate point of writing, right? To have our opinions, emotions and ideas understood?

As a copy editor, I am belabored by errant apostrophes, too many uses of "has been" and the dreadful Oxford comma (and on this third point, it's okay with me if we agree to disagree). As a writer, I concentrate on the sharp use of words. I like George Orwell's rules for writing - nickel and dime words are far better (and sometimes well more expressive) than a ten dollar term.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

1 comment:

5chw4r7z said...

It really is about context, if I'm arguing a point I obsess over spelling. How can you be convincing if you can't spell.
Otherwise in a flippant twitter conversation misspelled words don't detract from the conversation.
I also read that software that checks for plagiarism looks for commonly misspelled words that aren't and semi-colons.
I want to create an app called mispell that randomly misspells words in your essay and deletes all commas and semi-colons to help you defeat that software.