Rogue Ink

April 7, 2008

The War on English: Typos are evil.

Filed under: The War on English,Writing — Tei @ 5:26 pm
Tags: , , ,

I realize the Brazen Careerist did not get to append ‘brazen’ to her title without being unconventional. But this is a blatant attack on language and we of the Coalition of English majors will not stand for it, sah! Ma’am. Whatever.

The Brazen Careerist has 5 reasons why she thinks writing without typos is outdated. (Is anyone surprised? If you want to be really brazen, go do what the Self-Made Chick did and make a list with only 2 reasons. 2 is an unpopular number, an outcast number. 2 is the loneliest number since the number one, people. Challenge: make yourself some 2-reason lists. A lot of them. Make 7 2-reason lists. And then we can escalate from there.)

The bullet points of this argument, and my objections thereof, are:

1. Spellchecker isn’t perfect. No. No it isn’t. But Spellchecker should not be the only saving grace of your spelling. Spellchecker is your safety net. Spellchecker is supposed to catch you when you can’t remember if you’re supposed to spell mischievous the way everyone pronounces it (Mis-cheev-E-us), or the way it is spelled in the good ol’ Oxford English. Spellchecker is not there to catch your every error, it is there to act as a perfunctory editor, to catch the times when you inadvertently transpose two letters. And you go, thanks, Spellchecker! I did mean to say ‘your’ and not ‘yuor’! You’re the best!

2. Spelling has nothing to do with intelligence. Ho-hoh, I beg to differ, here. I believe what the BC meant to say is that the inability to spell does not necessarily connote stupidity, because she then goes on to cite dyslexia, from which several of my friends suffer. Yet, because they ARE intelligent people, these dyslexic friends of mine, they know that spelling properly makes for more effective communication, and so they work their little butts off to counter that disability. (Dude, I can’t do math. Can you imagine if I told the IRS that math skills weren’t essential to intelligence? They’d have me in some shackles, even if I had the brilliant idea that they should give me money this year. Which, let us face it, is a brilliant idea.)

We all saw this little gem wander around the internet a few years ago (and BC actually cites it) but be honest: you could stumble through it, but it was kind of a pain in the ass. And if someone sent you an email with the letters transposed like that, you would get rid of it. Not because you assumed the person was stupid. But because it was not worth your time. Smart people know that every tool in your arsenal that promotes effective communication ought to be used. If you can spell, and you are too lazy to cast a quick eye over the thing to make sure it looks okay, then that is, in a word, dumb. Un-intelligent. Just plain wrong, when you make your living by writing.

And I’m going to WAY out on a limb here and say that with the exception of people with learning disabilities, the smarter kids in my school were better spellers. They were better at a whole lot of stuff, including forming a logical and compelling argument. Spelling was up there. Does bad spelling automatically imply poor reasoning? Nah. It’d make me wonder, though. Do you really want to start off five steps behind the rest of the pack when trying to make your point?

3. You don’t have unlimited time, so spend it on ideas, not hyphens. This was the most idiotic one for me. Typos, fine. Everyone misses a typo here and there, that’s life. And no, your grammatical skills do not have to be AP Stylebook-worthy. But seriously, if you have a basic (read: high-school level) grasp of spelling and grammar, it should not take you more time to use those tools while writing. It is not a time-waster. I can write all of these thoughts down without having once to stop and grab my dictionary. Or my Chicago Manual of Style. Or my thesaurus. Though they’re all sitting right next to me, looking very pretty indeed. Here’s the thing: If it is taking BC more than an extra second or two to correct a quick spelling error here and there, then something is seriously wrong. And, looking at how far the U.S. has fallen in terms of education, I’d be willing to put a bet that the something that is wrong is that our students ain’t learning.

You know what DOES waste time? Having to make sure I understand what a person is trying to communicate because of overt typos and spelling errors. Come along with me for a minute to the comment board over at Slate:

One sidede reporting as usual! Once again your article is slanted toward Obama, why don’t you just give up trying to report on the issues and anouce this is an Obama Site. Hillary has gotten support to stay in the race, although you and others have tried to railroad her into quiting, not going to happen and be prepared for an upset in her favor.

How many of you took a minute to sort out ‘sidede’? ‘Anouce’? ‘Quiting’? It’s not that I think this man is dumb. I just think it’s too much effort to find out if he isn’t.

4. Perfectionism is a disease. I thought this one was just hilarious. I think this was born out of BC getting irritating little commentary from professional grammarians on whether she’d correctly used ‘whom’. And yes, BC, those are annoying little twits, those perfectionist bastards. And if there’s some guy out there who’s picking on the ONE time you said ‘snig’ when you meant ‘sing’, I think you should SMITE HIM FROM ABOVE, because nobody likes that guy. Here’s the thing – one or two typos, no big deal. We all type pretty fast these days, and we’re in a hurry. I get that. The entire paragraph of typos is going to make me wonder what your grade-school English teacher was smoking while she was teaching you.

People who spell correctly are not, by and large, perfectionists. We just passed eighth grade, that’s all. We’re perfectly safe. We mean you no harm.

5. Use the comments section for what matters: Intelligent discourse. Now, see, BC, I’m totally with you here. I suspect, in fact, that this whole long-winded article of yours was in fact a frustrated rant in the “Get the fuck off my back, you grammar Nazis!’ realm. And that is cool. I don’t want you to have to deal with comments about your grammar either. Let them talk about the issues. You don’t need to try to topple the English language just to get the monkeys off your back. Just tell me where they live. I will go and stab a threatening note into their door with a quill pen.

But I’m telling you, every single bloody word in that threatening note will be spelled properly. Because otherwise, how would they know to take me seriously?

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17 Comments »

  1. Brilliant. Funny. Insert your choice of accolades here.

    Huzzah.

    Comment by Rebecca — April 7, 2008 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  2. Bravo. If you are keeping a blog, you should care enough to check your writing for typos and grammar. We all make mistakes, true, but too many mistakes make it so hard to understand your ideas that no one will notice if they’re brilliant.

    Comment by Alanna Shaikh — April 8, 2008 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

  3. Rebecca: You are my favorite accolade.

    Alanna: Thanks for coming by and commenting! And you know, because I care, because I don’t want those guys coming around and saying smack, I fixed the teeny typo in your comment. ‘Cause I know you didn’t mean it. Come back again!

    Comment by Tei — April 8, 2008 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  4. I have to agree. I *try* not to be judgmental about minor slips (’cause I make enough of ’em myself) but I just can’t help it: write a string of junk and I think less of you. Transpositions are OK – one finger got ahead of the other. The odd “there” for “their” and vice-versa is OK because, yeah, I have a “typing brain” too and sometimes it’s just not paying close attention to what I’m telling it. But when it comes to the point of wanton disregard, I get all uppity and elitist and start getting my nose into a position where I can really look down on you..

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 8, 2008 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

  5. […] out there, and they will stop at nothing until we are all babbling as incoherently as those typo-endorsing, phonetic spelling, technology-addicted HEATHENS who live in the lower ranks of the comment […]

    Pingback by Welcome IttyBiz Peeps! « Rogue Ink — April 9, 2008 @ 9:44 am | Reply

  6. I know I am guilty of many a typo (I noticed I made one on the first comment I wrote on your blog… please forgive me) but as my current job requires minute attention to typographic detail, I completely know what you about the failings of spell-check.

    You may also enjoy this website (and related blog): http://www.spogg.org/

    Comment by s g — April 9, 2008 @ 9:54 am | Reply

  7. Oh look, I made another one. I think I should be fired.

    Comment by s g — April 9, 2008 @ 9:57 am | Reply

  8. The spelling, grammar and punctuation in this blog did not cause me to stop and wonder what you were trying to say. There may be a typo somewhere in it, but if there is, it isn’t the sort of error that I would call a “fatal error”.
    To me, it’s simply about communication. Being a better user of language primarily means that you’ll communicate better than if you were a worse language-user.
    Hyphens are generally old fashioned and can usually be omitted, but there are times when a hyphen will make a compound word easier to decipher.
    I think that goes for all punctuation. It isn’t there merely for the sake of proper rules. It’s there to make writing clearer.
    I’d like to see someone write an effective piece about how to always get its/it’s and their/they’re right. Those are two of the most common mistakes in written English, invisible to spellcheck and even highly-educated people get them wrong sometimes.
    I generally don’t bother reading anything that has a lot of bad grammar and misspellings. I always assume that a writer who won’t bother with the few seconds it takes to spellcheck is not someone who cares enough to try to communicate with me.
    Strangely enough, I don’t have a problem with reading “chatspeak” or slangy stuff as long as it’s written in a way that indicates that the writer has some intelligence.
    Laffing out luod…

    Comment by 1bobzilla — April 9, 2008 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

  9. s g – Oh, please, darling. No one’s going to be mad at you for a little typo. We are going to mad at BC for blatantly ENDORSING the typo. That’s like blatantly endorsing everyone’s fly being down. Does it happen? Sure. Little embarrassing. You get over it quick. Does this mean we should all not give a damn whether our fly is down when we get dressed in the morning? No, it does not. XYZ your typos, people, that’s all I’m saying.

    1bobzilla – I tell you what. One of these days I will write a flamboyantly English-major-dorky post on common grammar errors, like the its/it’s and their/they’re/there. It will be a test of my sense of humor to see if I can make that funny and entertaining for you folk.

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  10. Tony: Oop, sorry, missed you. I’m totally with you. I judge people when they use poor grammar. I think there is actually a T-shirt that says this. Perhaps I should sell it on this blog . . .

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  11. Tei,

    Good post. I recently issued a rebuttal to Ms. Trunk’s declarations as well.

    We think alike, at least on this issue. Maybe it’s the English major in us.

    Comment by Jesse Hines — April 10, 2008 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  12. I couldn’t agree more.

    Everyone makes the occasional typo, myself included, and some words are simply hard to spell. But it kills me the amount of people that don’t have a grasp of the English language. Apparently I’m a lot more harsh than most regarding the “its/it’s”, “their/they’re/there”, and “your/you’re” types of errors. Matter of fact, I have a basic rule on my blog that if people who leave comments don’t have a decent enough handle on the English language, I delete their comment. Especially those that use “text message language”- my feeling is that if you’ve gone through puberty, you can speak like big boys and girls. I guess that’s possibly a bit too critical, but that’s me.

    Great post!

    Comment by Johann — April 10, 2008 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

  13. Johann: Amen. I have to write up a post on the text messaging issue. That’ll be the next battle in the War on English.

    Jesse: I’ll go check that out!

    Comment by Tei — April 11, 2008 @ 2:57 am | Reply

  14. My name is Rebecca and I have Grammar Perfectionism Disease (GPD).

    Comment by Rebecca Smith — April 12, 2008 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

  15. […] What-the-Hell-IS-All-This? I am here to tell you the story about the Happy Man, to rant about the War on English or lumberjacks or running the perfect con. I am here to entertain you as best I can, and to let you […]

    Pingback by When Your Business Blog Isn’t a Business Blog « Rogue Ink — May 8, 2008 @ 4:20 am | Reply

  16. […] What-the-Hell-IS-All-This? I am here to tell you the story about the Happy Man, to rant about the War on English or lumberjacks or running the perfect con. I am here to entertain you as best I can while keeping […]

    Pingback by Rogue Ink: The Pub Denizens « Rogue Ink — May 9, 2008 @ 3:15 am | Reply

  17. […] but ‘writing’ includes copywriting, journalism, proper use of grammar and spelling (WAR!), and magazine articles. Likewise, ‘entrepreneurship’ includes marketing (there it is […]

    Pingback by Houston, We Shall Have Relaunch. « Rogue Ink — October 1, 2008 @ 3:45 am | Reply


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