Last week I was contacted by BBC Wiltshire; they wanted me to comment on a story from the BBC about spelling mistakes. I think they liked my response, which was mild outrage at the thought we should let such things slide.
I’ve written before about this sort of thing. I received a fair amount of stick from people saying “what if you’re dyslexic” or “what if you really struggle with grammar?”
My answer to both of those is: try harder. Not just if you’re dyslexic; not just if you struggle with grammar. I think we should all try harder. Since when did we ever say to people, “oh, you find it hard? Don’t bother then!” Yes, sometimes life is too short to keep up the ukelele practise when you’ve worn your finger pads down to blood and still can’t do the theme from Deliverance – but I would argue that a grasp of the English language is not a frivolous passtime.
The odd typo or rogue apostrophe here and there is bound to happen, especially when we’re posting from phones and tablets more and more. My Instagram account is nothing but testament to my fat fingers/smashed phone screen!
There is a difference though, between the occasional mistake and lazy lack of attention to detail.
These days, word processors and blogging platforms alike have spell check. If you’re using Google Chrome, it usually underlines in red any dodgy spellings. It bothers me when I see self-published work that has poor spellings and grammar – both in books and online. If someone is going to enough effort to produce writing, on whatever topic, why would they not proof read it, check for typos, double check for mistakes? If someone has the ability to come up with great content but is not 100% sure they can write it well, why not ask someone else to proof read it for them?
I used to work in pensions; we often had to send out complicated letters explaining tax codes and how tax was worked out. The girl who sat next to me understood the taxation process better than most of us, but she was borderline dyslexic. She knew that if she just wrote a letter and sent it out, she would look unprofessional and it would undermine her explanation of the process – so she always had someone else proof-read her letters before sending them.
I was very lucky with my education. I was encouraged to read books from a young age. I went to a Montessori nursery, and when I went to first school, it was a village school with only 30 pupils over four year groups. There were only two teachers, and both paid a lot of attention to detail. When I was in Class 2 (years 3 and 4), I remember having whole lessons devoted to when to use – and when not to use – apostrophes. The teacher would point out our mistakes, and took the time to show us where we were going wrong.That’s not to say my writing is perfect; I am still learning. But my education gave me a good start.
For me, this blog is not just about documenting my life with S; it’s about practising my writing skills, improving the way I write. I understand that others may not hold that view… but it surprises me that people would not be interested in the sort of first impression their writing gives.
Poor spelling and grammar doesn’t just wash over me; I notice it, and it undermines the authority of the person doing the writing. I find it hard to respect someone who willingly publishes work with poor spelling, apostrophes all over the place, poorly constructed sentences. Not because I am prejudiced against people who find such things hard; because I am prejudiced against people who don’t recognise there is an issue or attempt to mitigate their difficulty by having their work checked and amended accordingly.