Daily Archives: August 31, 2017

On The Mocking of Bad Spelling

I’m a terrible speller. I came to pre-computer college with this liability coupled with a worse one — an inability to revise due to a terror of writing given to me by an AP high school teacher who told me I need to “work on my writing” but not doing anything to help me. Since all my attempts to revise made things worse, I would hand in first drafts (typewritten, of course), filled with spelling errors. I remember one time I forgot to put my name on a paper and it came back with “Monica Edinger, I presume” written on it by the professor. I always thought he recognized my work by the spelling errors.

Because of this I have always been sympathetic to poor spellers, not attributing it to laziness, carelessness, or anything else. And so I agree with 

  • Criticizing spelling is elitist.

…. Yet there is an even deeper sort of elitism underlying the criticism of spelling mistakes. It stems from people correlating accurate spelling with a good education and outsize intelligence, which is actually incorrect.

There is not much scientific evidence to suggest that spelling well is connected to high intelligence. In the same way that some people are naturally better at arithmetic than others, some are naturally better spellers than others (and some people have lexical disabilities, like dyslexia, that make spelling even more difficult). But if you spell well, you can still do lots of dumb things, and if you spell poorly, you can still be very smart….

  • Focusing on spelling blinds us to content.

….All of this suggests that we are simply giving too much weight to spelling and other typographical mistakes. Focus on what people say, not how they spell it…..

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