Thursday, August 17, 2006

My last word(s) on spelling

I'm a word person. I like them individually for their meaning ("defenestrate") or their sound ("curfew"). I'm a nit-picking speller. I have a dictionary collection, including a couple on my computer, but I must admit I check first (and easiest).

But, I was also trained as a linguist (in the "I studied Linguistics" sense, although I can function quite well in French and Portuguese, if pressed, with a bit of Spanish, Korean & German thrown into the mix), and taught English as a Second Language for 12 years. I know I have an uncanny sense for spelling. I also know that while listening and speaking a language are natural acts, reading and writing (and thus spelling) are not.

When I StumbledUpon a(nother) list of commonly misspelled words, I thought I'd ramble on about my spelling philosophy.
  • English has notoriously awkward spelling. The Norman Invasion of 1066, the Great Vowel Shift, Shakespeare...blame who you want, we're stuck with it.
  • As we should be. The word "night" has a history and depth that "nite" will never have.
  • In the grand scheme of things, being a "good" or "bad" speller is not important.
  • That said, there is a social stigma to incorrect spelling, so when it is important, spell words properly.
  • When is it important? Unfortunately, pretty much any time you want to be taken seriously. When you're a contractor quoting for a job (I've sat on Strata Councils -- when two quotes are really similar, we would go with the slightly more expensive one, if the cheapest quote had spelling errors. Our reasoning? If the guy wasn't paying attention to those details, what else would he miss?), or when you're writing your resume, know the list.
  • It's also important for credibility on the web. "U R 2 cute" is fine in chat, but if I end up at a blog that is written like that, or someone comments on a blog using texting shorthand, that's it. I tune out. Blame it on my age or 'unhipness', but it just tells me that this person was too lazy to write full words. (And don't even start me on things like "24/7"!)
  • And, saving the best for last: Never trust a spell-checker to find your mistakes. It will miss your homonyms, those words that sound the same have different spellings: its/it's, there/they're/their, etc. And, it will miss your 'slips of the finger' -- when you type "form" for "from" and so on. If it's important, get a friend to check it, or hire someone in your office to do it for you.
(Wow. This turned out longer than I expected.)

All of that said, I'm not an ogre when it comes to spelling -- at least not socially. I do not sit with mental red pen correcting the odd error in my comment section (Except with Metro, he should know better!).



a h m a d said...

One of my wicked hobbies is to correct the spelling mistakes of my friends when we are chatting. Therefore, when one of them is angry and want to tell me about a problem, he/she would start, "Ahmad, I will talk and don't correct me." :P

Although, I am relatively good in spelling, I still need to work more on my pronunciation and vocabulary!

And I like The Free Dictionary. You can add it to your Firefox engines.

Anonymous said...

I used to work with a man who could have difficulty writing his own name. However, after seeing him build a house, I can honestly say that I'm envious of his talent. If you had recieved a quote from him it would have been a list of materials, an hourly rate, a rough time period and barely legible.
If I could find him and he was still working, he would be the first person I'd ask to build anything for me.
I've also seen the exact opposite here at my condo.
A professional "looking" contractor and crew that I wouldn't have build me a dog house after seeing their work.


Sonia said...

Surprised you still talk to me! I really don't care about spelling (as you probably already know from reading my blog and notes...). Grammer is not far behind...I get to excited and just ramble (hence the "..."'s). I must be driving you crazy just with this note alone...oh ya and I have on occassion tried the spell check...but it doesn't work on my computer...

Lori said...

Ahmad...wicked, is right!

I do agree with you. Our strata council used a few lone operators because they were consistently great, and they hand-wrote their quotes. I'm more concerned about the larger organizations who hire someone who can't spell to write their letters & they hire guys who can't pound nails too?

And Sonia -- have I ever corrected anything you've written or said? No. (I'm not ahmad!) You are always coherent, and I'm sure you'll check the spelling carefully on your next resume! :P

Lydia said...

Sorry Sonia, to excited is perhaps foreplay. You are TOO excited! Also when in doubt do NOT use contractions. You are (aside from the space) is equal to you're and you won't be tempted to use a possessive. Although it bugs me (it being mistakes) I sure would hate to stifle anyones' creativity. I've read some amazing things by illiterate "writers" and total bunk by professionals!

Lori said...

And I didn't even notice those! I'm glad, because it proves my point that I don't pay attention when it's not important.

RennyBA said...

Here from 25peeps and say hello from Norway. Glad you're not not an ogre in comments as my native toungue is not English you know. I take it you perfer it this way after all.
God Søndag (have a nice Sunday in Norwegian)!

Lydia said...

Hey, is that some kind of a crack (I say over a day later) Do I "pay attention when it's not important" ? Rennyba : she is not an ogre but can become quite owly when provoked !

Lori said...

yes, Lyd, it was a crack...but then so was correcting Sonia's grammar. In the end, we're all even...