I’m often asked why we need to bother to learn to spell given we now have a way of checking our spelling in pretty much every business document we create. We have autocorrect functions, we have spell check in Word, we have predictive text (more on that another day…) and they’re all effective text correctors.
Unfortunately, you and I know they are not the be all and end all. Errors creep through; some are hilarious rather than detrimental but others are more critical than harmless.
Spell check won’t pick up any of the following ‘errors’:
- I sent the report to the mangers last Friday
- I followed the basic principals of business writing.
- All personal must report to the site office.
Obviously a word can be spelled correctly, but be the wrong word, and make no sense. Spell check is not necessarily the tool that will pick these up.
Even the simplest of messages can be misunderstood. The English language is notorious for its ambiguities and strange spellings.
English spelling presents us with many challenges.
Martians would wonder…
“Suppose all Earthlings were destroyed by some great catastrophe and years later Martian space travellers exploring Earth discovered fragments of English writing that included the following sentence:
He believed that Caesar could see the people seize the sea.
How would a Martian linguist decide that e, ie, ae, ee, eo, ei and ea all represented the same sound? To add to her confusion, she might later stumble across this sentence:
“The silly amoeba stole the key to the machine.”
(FROMKIN & RODMAN)
In effect, we learn to spell by the ‘eye’ and not the ‘ear’. Much of it is rote learning. It takes time.
Spell check is a blessing but:
- spelling words correctly in the first place saves time.
If your spelling skills are poor, you are using valuable time going back and correcting mistakes that don’t need to be there in the first place. Better to get it right the first time, use fewer key-strokes, and get on with more important tasks.
- Spell check is not a tool that picks up on word-use errors
Is it principle or principal, effect or affect, personal or personnel, averse or adverse? And don’t get me started on your or you’re, too or to, their, there or they’re …
Spell check is a blessing but always remember, it won’t get you out of trouble all the time. In business writing, you can’t afford to make mistakes. You look foolish, and that reflects poorly on your organisation.