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Does spelling matter?

When contemplating the topic of spelling and its importance, I idly wondered how many spelling mistakes appear in journalism. Surely, as examples of high-quality writing composed by the most talented journalists in the country, newspapers, both in their paper and online form, should be free from errors, particularly orthographic errors?

I decided to have a look at the Daily Mail website, and within minutes of browsing articles, I found an error, unless of course I am mistaken and the flashes of light that go hand in hand with thunder are flashes of “lightening”. Some may argue that the spelling mistake does not detract from the information given, and that a reader would still understand what was meant (in this case, that Kate Hudson’s dress has lightning motifs on it). However, surely that does not excuse the error that appeared in a national newspaper? Readers would only understand the word by recognising it as being similar to the correct word “lightning” and realise that this is the intended meaning.

So just how important is spelling? Even though not a single word in the following paragraph is spelt correctly, we can still read it:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch by the Lngiusiitc Dptanmeret at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

So if we just need the first and last letters to be correct in order to be able to understand a word, does the order of the letters in the middle matter?

When translating text, spelling is extremely important. Correct spelling is necessary in order to ensure that the translator, who will be translating from a language that is not their own, can understand exactly what the author of the text wants to say. One letter out of place could potentially change the whole meaning of a word and therefore a sentence. In addition, for foreign readers, who are making the effort to learn English, it is important that they learn the correct spelling of words. If there is a word they are unsure of, they would presumably believe the spelling that appears in a newspaper, thus incorrectly learning a piece of English vocabulary.

The question of technology should also be addressed. Are computers partly to blame for spelling mistakes we make? With the ever-increasing use of spellcheckers, not just in Office applications now, but also in various email sites, are we becoming too reliant on them? Do we think that we can get away with not learning how to spell correctly, as we know that the computer will correct any errors we commit? Are spelling mistakes in the press merely typing errors? Should we go back to pen and paper and photocopies? Or is spelling not that important after all? In my humble opinion, it is, it is an inherent part of the English language, that is at risk of being compromised due to laziness and lack of care. I think spelling should be one of the most important parts of any English lesson given to school children, so that our language continues to flourish and be passed from generation to generation correctly.

Apologies, rant over… just don’t get me started on apostrophes…

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