Just for the spell of it

Pam Frampton
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I have a spelling checker.

It came with my PC.

It plane lee marks four my revue

Miss steaks aye can knot see ...

- From a poem posted on the BBC's website by Amanda Selvaratnam, U.K.

Are you a stickler for spelling? Partial to proper punctuation?

Do missing apostrophes, or superfluous ones, make you want to sign up for primal scream therapy? (Picture it: the rustic painted sign in front of a pretty summer place proclaims it to be the home of "The Smith's." Don't get me started.)

Have you been known to "edit" the TV guide or newspaper, even though you're not a professional editor and, at any rate, you're supposed to be on vacation?

Do typos in advertisements and on billboards make you crazy? ("Let us no what you think of our service. You're business is important to us.")

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's OK. There are others out there. You are not alone.

Put down the dictionary for a moment, push those bifocals firmly back up onto the bridge of your nose, and relax.

Despite the prevalence of texting, instant messaging, Twitter and Internet acronyms, there are still people who think that proper spelling matters and that "interpretative" spelling - particularly as practised by school-age children - should be discouraged.

For example, back in 1998, when BBC News asked visitors to its website if spelling mattered, it received an onslaught of opinion from commenters around the globe.

While most were in favour of standardized spelling, some contended that as long as the correct message is conveyed, who cares?

The gist of the arguments for and against is summed up nicely in these two posts:

"People get far too worried about the odd letter in the wrong place. What really matters is the content of the sentence. If you over-criticize a pupil on the grounds of spelling, then that pupil won't develop far more important creative skills." - Bob Dwyer, English teacher, London

"As an English teacher, Bob Dwyer should be sacked for a comment like that. It's like a mathematics teacher saying, 'It doesn't matter if the numbers are wrong as long as it's nearly right.'" - Kourous Rashanzanir, England

On Facebook, a misspelling has created a mini-furor among Guinness-drinking spelling sticklers, who are frothed up about the error on "The Guiness Drinkers Society" web page.

"I'll join (the society) when you add the N!," one person quipped.

At a local shopping mall recently, the poor grammar, lack of punctuation and typographical error on a huge sign made some shoppers cringe:

"Looking for a real fashion career

Bring your CV at our temporary location or e-mail carreer@..."

Now, I am well aware that mistakes can creep into the most carefully crafted text - particularly when you're talking about the thousands of words contained in a daily newspaper or the 20th news release of the day from a busy government department or police detachment.

In one short span at work recently, I came across references to ferocious wolves "stocking" dogs, a bear that might have to be put down "in a humane manor" (lucky bear!), various "rights of passage" and a fire that started in a "pile of refuge."

English is confusing and it's particularly easy to get homonyms mixed up.

But if you think getting one letter wrong is no big deal, and that people who care about spelling should just lighten up and "go with the floe," then consider this: a newspaper runs obituaries, and the words "dear" and "dead" are just one letter away from being the same.

Imagine how many ways that could spell disaster.

And consider the case of the Swedish couple travelling through Italy last month, who were on their way to Capri, hailed by some as the most beautiful island in the world.

Because they misspelled their destination when they typed it into their car's GPS, they ended up 660 kilometres away in the industrial town of Carpi, where the economic mainstays include "food processing, straw-plaiting ... and the manufacture of shirts and hosiery," according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram's story editor. If you have an opinion on whether or not spelling is important, drop her a line at pframpton@thetelegram.com. Read her columns online at www.thetelegram.com.

WWW Weblinks

Test your spelling ability - www.funtrivia.com/quizzes/humanities/english/spelling_bee.html

Organizations: BBC News, Guinness, Guiness Drinkers Society

Geographic location: U.K., London, England Italy Carpi

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Recent comments

  • liz/aka/jane
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    I once saw a headline in a sister paper that read, price increase hits below the waste . I was so aggravated I had to call them on it.

  • liz/aka/jane
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    I once saw a headline in a sister paper that read, price increase hits below the waste . I was so aggravated I had to call them on it.