Never has spelling been more important

This isn’t intended to be a lengthy post, but I hope that the point will be taken.

According to a survey of 200 heads of schools by a leading education magazine, 70% of headteachers said Facebook and Twitter are bad for literacy (1). One is reported as suggesting; “I do feel that to a certain extent the use of electronic media, and particularly a reliance on spell checkers, has resulted in a decline in old fashioned grammar and spelling.”

Whatever your opinion on this, I would like to suggest that (for the time being, at least) spelling remains crucial to success in this digital world. While semantic searching algorithms have improved the accuracy of near-miss retrieval of information, there’s no substitute for getting it right in the first place.

I have just received a plea from a “Knowledge and Research Independent Consultant”, to engage in the debate about the impact of the built environment on the social capital of communities. Now, I could be critical of his job title [I suspect that he means that he is an “Independent Knowledge and Research Consultant”], or of his use of lower case letters to spell his name after the style of the author, ee cummings. [Incidentally, EE Cummings only occasionally used lowercase and is thought to have done so only in specific situations where he wished to demonstrate humility to his subject (2).]

However, my concern is more with the title of his piece; “Soical Capital”. You see, while Google is clever, it is far too easy for slapdash spelling of this kind to lead to significant items being lost forever. If they are not recognised by search engines, then they simply won’t be found. In this case, the individual is highlighting some important issues behind the Chinese economy and its sustainability – it would have been a significant contribution, but it is likely to disappear into the mysts.

To the job hunter, this is particularly acute, because the head-hunters and recruiters tend to use far less sophisticated search tools – often just the “Find” facility in a word-processor. If you are an “industrial design engineer” and you mis-spell any one of those words in your CV, then it simply won’t be found when they are looking for candidates in their database.

Last night, I was reading a self-published book – a kind of biography of a manager who has recently had some quite extraordinary experiences and has documented them. Sadly, before pressing the button to upload it to Kindle, he failed to get a half-decent copy-editor or proof-reader to go through it. As a consequence, the resulting tome loses a lot of its power and will probably not receive the kudos that it deserves. I would suggest that he could have launched a career as a writer on the back of it, and yet this clearly labels him as an amateur.

Sp, please, if you are working on anything – a report, an essay, a piece for publication, or even a short social media snippet – check, double-check, and triple-check your work.

Over to you… after such a critical piece, I am bound to have misspelt something!

Best wishes

One Comment

  1. What is missing is the importance of embedding digital literacy and this includes using all types of technology to proofread. Schools have limited experience of making this part of any writing requirement. For example, using text readback software, now freely available via open source software, would greatly improve young children’s writing and help make them more independent. Unfortunately it still appears to be used by those with ‘needs’ and not made normal for anyone learning to write. Spellchecking should be part of every teacher’s conversation with their students. Until teachers, teacher training and a digitally savvy department of education embrace digital literacy, you will continue to be frustrated. Apologies for any errors but I’m using my iPhone to reply.

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