Important Skills for Writers, Part 1: Spelling

Welcome to the first in a series of three hundred and forty-seven posts on “Important Skills for Writers.” In this episode we discuss spelling.

Growing up, my dad used to tell this story of a time when he was in grade school. He created a very artistic cover for an English spelling folder. He was always proud of his eye for design, and this was not an opportunity he could pass up. He ended up putting so much time and effort into the presentation, that he never realized he’d written: “My Sellping Book.”

(Ironically, I’m not sure if I even spelled that correctly. He always just told us the story and I never knew how he actually sellped it.)

So why is correct spelling so important? To be honest, I have no idea. Spelling things correctly (in English) is a relatively recent phenomenon: only about five centuries or so. And when I say “correctly” I really just mean “consistently.” Before then, spelling wasn’t standardized. Spelling would drastically change from region to region, from person to person, and even from page to page in the writing of a single individual. Chaucer himself wrote, “This I telle you, the thyng what I needeth: is more cow belle. A fever hath I. And there is but one prescription: more cow bell.”

But how about in modern times? What if we just spelled things any way we wanted to? Like so:

Kawshun. Water may b akros rode way at hi tydez or adverse wether condishuns.

You can read it, right? Sure, it looks awkward, but the primary purpose (BY FAR) of writing is simply to communicate. It’s about the closest thing humans have to both telepathy and time travel.

So then, if I have successfully communicated a thought, who really cares if I write, “Nothing compares 2 u” instead of “Nothing compares to you”?

I’ll tell you who cares: I do.

And I’ll tell you why: writing “2 u” looks stupid.

Sorry, Prince. But it does. Spelling words correctly (consistently) is just that final touch that says one thing: I care about this. And if you don’t care about your writing, why should I care to spend the time reading it?

Fortunately we have something today that Chaucer could have only dreamed of: spellcheckers. These amazing and infallible tools give us that caring touch for free. After all, check out this spell-checked excerpt from one of my novels:

Phil: What’s are speed, Gym? Our Wii even moving atoll?
Jim: We’re down too just one not, Fill!
Phil: Worse, we’ve lost site of land.
Jim: Don’t worry, Fill. I’ll safe us!

Now you might assume, given how important this is to me, that I can spell any word thrown at me. Well, if that’s your assumption, then you’re wrong. There are dozens and dozens of words that I simply cannot spell no matter how many times I try. Eventually I get it, solely because of that red squiggly line. But it’s never on the first, second, or sixth tries.

  • Compatability (Actually, any word with -ility
  • Occassional
  • Furnature
  • Spring (if this doesn’t look misspelled to you, it’s because I was trying to type Sprint)
  • Traffice (It’s just “traffic” stupid.)

I could continue, but this sad post has already gone on 2 long. But if you made it this far, leave a comment with any words that give you trouble. One lucky winner will win a free link to my next blog post.

Good lock!

5 Comments for “Important Skills for Writers, Part 1: Spelling”

says:

I of course remember Dad’s story about that, and one time he drew me a demonstration – and it was SELPING. 😀

I am not sure you know this story but I did a book report in 7th grade – a Falcon was the main part of the story, don’t remember what it was about, but Dad took it upon himself to draw the cover of my book report and drew this elaborate falcon on the front of it. When he handed it to me I said “there is no way she’s going to believe I drew that!” He said not to worry.

I handed it in, half in fear that the teacher would recognize my “talent” and ask me to draw it on the chalk board. When parent/teacher conferences rolled around, the teacher pulled out my book report and said to Mom and Dad “looks like we have quite a little artist on our hands!” 😀

One and a half sleeps til I see your face!

says:

I am the other person in the wide world who cares about speeling..ha! I can’t let it go even in a text message. Commitment, occasion, and embarrassment all give me a fit. I can never remember how many m’s or t’s or c’s or s’s…drives me up the wall. As always, an enjoyable post!

Charlie

says:

I’m embarrassed that I left embarrassed off the list. That one’s hard too. And yes, even in texts: I simply cannot bring myself to send a ill-written SMS message.

I did, however, finally figure out “exercise”. Here’s how I did it. First, I memorized that it was eight letters. This immediately got me to quit typing excersize. After that, it was the “c”, “s”, and “z” issue. Knowing that all three of those wouldn’t fit into the 8-letter word got me to remember “exer”. Then I solved this by remembering they appear in alphabetical order: c then s and then I’m out of letters.

Easy peasy.

Michelle

says:

My husband has this great story about writing a report about ANGELS for school but every ANGEL was an ANGLE and spell check didn’t catch it.

Spelling is the bane of my 11 year olds existence. It is driving him crazy!!

Charlie

says:

Yeah, that’s another one that gets me from time to time. Good luck to the eleven year old. More exceptions than rules out there to learn. 🙂

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