Since my plane is delayed an hour due to Air Traffic Control mayhem somewhere in the country (where, I am not sure, since the weather here in Dallas is splendiforous), I thought I would quickly pound out a post on spelling.
Yes, my friends, S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G.
In my other incarnation on another site, the supposed fun-loving participants would be at war with the contingent that was known as the Grammar Police. I thought it funny at the time, but when I first started out, I made the common lazy mistakes of posting in all lower case and using cutesy abbreviations for words. This is what the cell phone and text messaging has done to civilization. It’s all sound bites and globs of letters that need to buy a vowel. I wised up rather quickly. You have to if you want people to believe you are a real writer.
It is my opinion that as a modern people, we have become woefully negligent to this very important feature of language. Proper spelling is not only essential to the continuation of the civilization, it is a necessary component for writers everywhere.
Before pooh-poohing my theory, just think: Without words, there would be no sentences. Without sentences, there would be no paragraphs. Paragraphs are necessary for the building of stories both small and large. I know, I know. There are other considerations, like grammar, story arcs, sympathetic protagonists, developmental tension and the like. However, every good (and bad) book starts with a single word, and if the word is misspelled, oy vay.
Next to the protection of homophones (there-they’re-their), my interest in spelling is long-lived. Blame it on the fact that my parents did not have much money for books, but they did manage to buy a set of encyclopedias (for those who are 1960′s challenged, that’s like Wikipedia bound in twenty-six ten-pound tomes in leather), a thesaurus and a dictionary. My kids will dispute this simply because they cannot fathom it (modern whippersnappers!) but I actually read the entire encyclopedia and the dictionary JUST FOR FUN. My devotion to the written word was complete when I gained a place at the Colorado State Spelling Bee in 7th grade. (I didn’t win, but I didn’t place last either. I was comfortably just south of the 50% mark.)
I cringe when I see misspelled words. I also gleefully inform the miscreant who maligned the word. I’m sorry, but that’s what a spelling cop does. I used to write letters to the editors of major newspapers regarding poor spelling in their articles or would call the local TV station when banners contained misspelled words.
I thought I would die of a fit when my oldest son was in elementary school back in the mid-1990′s. Back then, the fad in spelling was “inventive” spelling. This meant the kids were supposed to attempt spelling a word by sounds only. Not phonics, the kids were encouraged to scramble any and all combination of letters into a soupy and wrong, wrong, wrong word. The only way to learn how to spell a word is to write and re-write it a few dozen times. This is how I learned – my mother was Japanese and her English wasn’t perfect – and this is how my son learned. He didn’t like it, but hey, that’s what parents are for.
Even with my advancing age and pre-Alzheimery mind, I can still outspell just about everyone. The brain as a tool isn’t as sharp as it used to be, and I admit it. I’ve even re-read things I have posted online to find that I’ve misspelled a word. (Horrors!) A quick email to the online editor usually fixes the problem.
Here is another secret: One cannot rely on spell check to pull his/her sorry ass out of the fire. Been there, done that.
My advice? Take a word, any word you aren’t familiar with. Take one a day. Learn how to spell it correctly and learn how to use it in a sentence. Try to incorporate it into your writing. Get rid of one of the tired old stand-bys you’ve been using since the dawning of age. Bathe in the glory of your new-found acquisition, and breathe easy that the spelling cop will be passing you by the next time she feels an urge to write you a citation.