Monday, April 22, 2013

Spelling Matters

OMG, this record may have had
more influence than anyone would
have thought.
Spelling matters, folks.

I spent the weekend going over a manuscript to send to first readers, editing not just for passivity and clarity but also for spelling. To be truthful, I'm usually pretty good at spelling. Most of my mistakes come from typing too fast. The most common mistake I make is 'sotry' for 'story'. My fingers sometimes get out of order and I often will catch such mistakes in my first read-through. They're the smallest percentage of problems with my manuscripts. Always.

Being a good speller is a point of pride for me. I never participated in a spelling bee but I read voraciously as a teenager and into my 20s. Hundreds of pages a week for nearly two decades. That's what I credit for being able to spell.

And of course now, given the ubiquity of social media and texting, misspellings are everywhere. Businesses have to do it in order to trademark their products, too. Prince went so far as to use symbols in titles of his songs rather than words. There are ten words that The Oatmeal demands you stop misspelling right now. These ten words are the most commonly misspelled in particular in status updates and text messages and Tweets.

But they're not the only ones.

What bugs me the most is that when taken in aggregate, that is - seeing multiple misspellings on one page by multiple authors, it's shocking that so many people either don't care or don't know that there's a problem.

Aren't they embarrassed that their misuse of words shows a lack of education? A lack of pride?

Apparently not.

It's one thing to express yourself with little quirks, I suppose, but there's an effect to widespread abuse of the formality and commonality of the language. Just as a record of the language, these abuses are egregious. They show a laziness, a lack of caring that is alarming to scholars and should alarm the average bear, too. Soon the language will change for the worse.

Evolution of language is one thing.

It happens that in order for businesses to do their things and trademark the names, the names have to be fairly unique. I get it that intentional misspellings are part of that. THAT doesn't bother me. But if you're searching for a recipe to make doughnuts at home, think about how many spellings you might have to search just to find the one recipe you could make. Doughnut. Donut. Donutz. Do-Nut. There are other variations, I'm sure.

My generation allowed yadda yadda to become part of the lexicon. Useless term, that, except as an expression. YOLO being added is kind of okay in my book, as long as its capitalized entirely and used as it was meant to: you only live once. (Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on it, though. Radar and scuba should be all caps because they are acronyms the same as snafu, but they're actual words now.) Awesome is also of my generation and was overused by any number of segments of the society. Dude still bugs me but it's been thirty years and I've accepted its use by the average bear. (Although a dude to me is still a city-dweller out of his depth in the great outdoors. When was the last time you heard it used that way?)

Now, in the Digital Age, everything one writes online will be there forever. FOR. EVER. Regardless of your privacy settings I guarantee that someone somewhere will have access to it. (And if the CISPA bill passes, this is assured. Don't believe me? Here's the lowdown. And when you're done reading, will you defend the fourth amendment as vociferously as the NRA defended the second amendment?) This is important to remember but it's often forgotten by those that are too lazy or just don't care.

Which brings me to my point. If we no longer CARE, then things will change. Not always the way we want them to, but they will change. I don't have time to fight for everything I want because I'm living a life. Just like you. And these things move quickly when you're not looking. Those oppressively cute cat GIFS on Tumblr aren't the devil, but they sure are a distraction.

Look, spelling does count. It's how you show you're smart, that you understand the language you're speaking and writing and it shows that you understand it matters. Employers, friends, colleagues and stray passersby in cyberspace will judge you for your misspellings.

Wouldn't it be better to be respectful of the language?

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