Janet's Jargon

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Editing--and *#^%#& Spellcheckers!

I do a lot of editing. I have for over 40 years. We used to have an editor at our local Grand Forks Herald with whom I had a running joke. I would circle the errors in the newspaper and about once a month I would drop them off for him to peruse. I told him that if he ever decided to hire a proofreader to give me a call.

Then came the age of the computer. He gleefully let me know that there would be no more errors in the paper, as "the computer has a spellchecker." Well, as you probably know, a spellchecker is only as good as the person who invented it. If a letter is dropped or misplaced, many times it is still a legitimate word, so there is no little red line under it. Here are a few examples of the most common errors:
too, to, two
there, their, they're
which, witch
vary, very
grown, groan
week, weak

Another problem is when you hit a key too fast and it doesn't show up. It can result in a very quick, painless sex-change surgery: "she" becomes "he." Or the addition of a simple space can change a grouch to a cat: "sourpuss" to "sour puss."

The list could go on almost indefinitely. I am amazed constantly by people who have good educations and are considered quite intelligent but who can't write a single paragraph without a myriad of spelling and grammar errors. Some of these writers are even English teachers! Where has the education system failed? If the teachers don't know the basic rules, how can they expect their students to learn them?

I have a theory. I think it is in the lack of phonics being taught in the early grades. Our oldest son, Wilbert, had a first grade teacher who drilled phonics into them from day one. The only time I ever remember him misspelling a word was after he was grown up and out on his own. One day he told me that the calendar he had gotten for the year had a word that was spelled wrong. I asked him what word, and he said "Feburary." I said "How did they spell it?" "F-E-B-R-U-A-R-Y." I told him that was correct, and he argued with me. He made a trip to the library and checked, and every reference he could find had it spelled F-E-B-R-U-A-R-Y. He called me back and admitted that either he was wrong, or all of the calendars at the library were wrong.

His grammar was as good as his spelling. We had an Irish setter named Friskie. Wilbert taught him proper grammar. If someone told Frisky to "Lay down," he would stand there and completely ignore them. As soon as you told him to "Lie down," he immediately would drop to the floor.

If you would like to see a fun sample of Wilbert's writing, go to my website at http://www.janetelainesmith.com and click on the page "Wish I'd Never Gone to..."

And remember to check your own spelling. You can't count on the &#^$%*# Spellchecker!


  • At 10:16 PM, Blogger FTS said…

    I'm a good speller. I'm quite possibly a great speller. However, I'm a horrible typist.

    Where's Mavis Beacon when you need her...

  • At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wonderful, Janet!!!! I couldn't agree more :-) Joyce (who has corrected many teacher's spelling errors)

  • At 9:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear Janet:

    I've seen a lot of cute poems and essays using words that were "correct" but used incorrectly make the rounds on the Web. That so many of us writers get a bit cocky is the reason I often include pointers on vocabulary, grammar and punctuation in my "Sharing with Writers" newsletter.

    SWW is an extension of Authors' Coalition (http://authorscoalitionandredenginepress.com) though one can subscribe free by sending an e-mail with "subscribe" in the subject line to HoJoNews@aol.com.

    I mean, I think the idea is to spread around the expertise--just as you are doing! By the way, girl. I have a blog, too. Have you visited? It's http://redenginepress.com/chjohnson. There you'll find tips on how to make book fairs even more successful! Maybe next blog you can cover that subject. I mean, who wants to rent a booth at a book fair only to sit there and be miserable??

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Award-winning author of THIS IS THE PLACE, HARKENING, THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER and TRACINGS, to be released by http://finishinglinepress.com this month.

  • At 1:31 AM, Blogger Terri Pray said…

    Spell checkers, they can be a royal pain in the.... well you get the picture.

    You should also try doing this when you've been taught the UK version of english, and then have to switch over to American english. I never realized just how different the two languages were until I moved here a few years ago.

    Nice to check in with another 'local' though.

    Terri Pray
    Now in Minnesota


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