Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some Thoughts on Spelling

My thoughts on spelling consist of “invented spelling,” predictable misspellings and a suggestion to remember how to spell words you continually misspell. I’ll do one a day for the next three days.

Question: How do I deal with my conviction that I will not use a word in writing I'm not sure of spelling correctly?

Answer: Try "invented" spelling. I’m sure you have heard the expression, “I will never use a word in writing that I can’t spell.” I can understand why people would say that. Misspellings hurt. I have seen supervisors tear up employment applications because of misspellings. Misspellings imply that you are uneducated, not very smart and, at the least, careless and not dedicated to excellence.

On the other hand, if you limit your word choice only to words you can spell, your vocabulary in writing will be lean, limited almost to the patterns of “See Dick run.” In order to use your extensive vocabulary without having to interrupt your writing to check every possible misspelling, “invent,” or “estimate” the spelling and keep going. You can check the spelling of “ubiquitous” or "sacrilegious" when you edit. In writing a draft you want to finish as rapidly as possible. Then, when you have the draft ready for the final copy, check the spelling. If the draft is on a word processor, it will be marked by a wavy red line anyway.

Editing for spelling should be your last item in preparing the final copy. Read from last word to first in order to see the details of each word, which you might miss when reading first word to last and concentrating on meaning.

You can prepare for timed handwritten essays or tests by noting the spelling of key words that are likely to appear on the test, like proper names. (I’ll tell you how to remember those spellings in two days.) Evaluators like those who grade the SAT are instructed not to let something like spelling unduly influence the total essay which is being read mainly for content. Still, evaluators are likely to be distracted from meaning by misspellings.

All the best. RayS.

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