Yes, of course, we all have typos and sometimes we think we are spelling a word correctly when we aren’t, and sometimes the clever folks inside our computers and smartphones anticipate what we are about to write and change a word and now it just looks goofy. But… I make this contention:
I know of no good writers who don’t care about spelling. If you care about writing, you care about spelling. Not caring about spelling says something. When I see misspelled words on papers here’s what goes through my head: “Got spellcheck? Did you proofread your paper? Do you simply not know how to spell this word?”
Yes, the poor kid on Jeopardy! misspelled a word in his haste … and he paid for it, but that incident is not the primary issue at work today. Many people who don’t know think we need not care.
Can I get an Amen?! (From USA Today)
After all, technology has already pocked our punctuation, hampered our handwriting and grated at our grammar. What does it mean for spelling to take a swipe?
A lot, according to those adamant about correctly arranged letters.
“Spelling absolutely counts,” says Paige (yes, that’s “Paige” with an “i”) Kimble, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the contest’s 1981 champion. Indeed, in Thomas’ case, spelling counted to the tune of thousands of dollars. “What we know is that good spelling is a tremendous reflection on an individual’s overall knowledge and attention to detail. We love thatJeopardy! took a stand.”
Precisely because technology can get tripped up — distinguishing between, say, “your” and “you’re” or those thorny twins “its” and “it’s” — “spelling is as important as it’s ever been,” says J. Richard Gentry, an expert in reading and spelling education and the author of Spel is a Four-Letter Word. “I’m all in favor of treating spelling as seriously as it should be. It matters when a doctor writes a prescription and, apparently, when you have to write an answer on Jeopardy!”
Typos, intentional or not, occur in all realms of society, even among elite academics. On Monday, a University of Virginia football scholarship offer letter made the cyber-rounds — for printing “formerly” instead of “formally.” In the first paragraph.
Big Government has also flopped when it comes to combining consonants and vowels. In February, an e-mail from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta misspelled “consistant,” “personel,” “contine” and, up top in all caps, “memorandom.” Yikes.
But spelling stumbles don’t just induce cringes; in everyday life, they can have real repercussions, from landing a job to landing an online date.
“We still evaluate people based on how we present ourselves in writing,” says Mignon Fogarty, aka “Grammar Girl,” an author of books on grammar and spelling and the founder of a popular website, Quick and Dirty Tips. “It suggests how detail-oriented you are, how rushed, how much care you put into your writing.”