Friday, August 18, 2006

Ability to Write & Ability to Spell.

Symphony… You Inspired Another Google!

As I was saying to Symphony here I’m amazed by the number of people who believe that spelling abilities have huge impacts on writing or language comprehension abilities. I noted in those comments that Stephen King can’t spell worth shit (and he’s got to be one of the most famous fiction writers or our time), and since I know there are many others like him I thought I’d look it up.

I first found an interesting article on why people choose not to write called 10 Myths on Learning to Write.

Myth number five from that list is:

5. If you can’t spell, you can’t write
Oh, yes you can! Good writers first write all their thoughts and ideas. Then they revise, revise, revise until they’re satisfied they’ve said what they want to say. Then—and only then—is it time to edit for spelling and other rules such as capitalization, punctuation, and word usage.

I wonder if people who put so much emphasis on other’s lack of spelling abilities realize that maybe that emphasis is influencing and preventing another potential writer who isn’t as confident in their spelling as some may be, to never pick up a pen and paper.

I can’t spell worth shit, but I don’t believe that makes me a bad writer, nor do I believe I lack language comprehension skills, since I know what I mean and what other people mean when they or I use words like, ‘they’re’ misplaced for 'their’, or (as more recently pointed out to me) ‘porthole’ instead of ‘portal’, as I’ve done in the left column of my page.

I appreciate it when people point out my errors and if I have the time or will, I do correct them. But even if I don’t, (as I’ve not yet for the column here), I make a note and learn from it. But I’ll never be a great speller. I read tones. I learn the correct spelling of a word and then I quickly forget it. I actually remember asking my 2nd year IGCSE English instructor to pay special attention to spelling in her classes, because she’d pointed out half way through the year that I’d constantly misspelled ‘maybe’ as ‘mabey’. She was one of the best instructors I ever had, actually. Anyway, on to those authors (far more recognized than I) that I wanted to find and point out.

Here, you’ll find the author Steve Hendrix write in his column, for the Washington Post why he can’t spell worth shit.

Here Doctor Who, a UK(?) based publishing house emphasizes that spelling abilities in a submitted piece of writing obviously won’t get a fantastic writer rejected, but writing riddled with errors, obviously not checked through with a spellchecker are tremendously annoying and do show lack of professionalism:

’Annoying spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes don't create a good impression. (Jac adds: if you're a fantastic writer, you won't get rejected because you can't spell, obviously. But, we're looking for professionalism in a synopsis, because that indicates the writer is going to be professional overall. And if the writer hasn't bothered to spellcheck, or hasn't found out about the basic rules of grammar, that's not very professional.)’

I’m probably about as shitty with grammar and punctuation as I am with spelling, but I do use a spell check, and I do try to revise and edit any grammatical errors I see. I highly doubt anything I’ve written can be legitimately seen as ‘riddled with errors’, though I’ve got my fair share. And besides, me, like many writers around here, have no current interest in getting published. If people are still reading what I write, I must have at least some of what it takes not to annoy them so horribly they can’t possibly force themselves to read another word! I must somehow be a good writer.

Here, Stephen J. Cannell, the author of multiple books(bio in the link), ends a question with reference to his active support of people with Dyslexia by saying:

’Obviously, I make my living as a writer, something many think a dyslexic can't do. There is a big difference between writing and spelling. I can't spell, but who cares?’

I doubt people purchase his books or publishing houses publish his work, to the extent that he makes his entire living through his writing because they feel sympathy for his condition that makes him unable to spell. Nope, I’d say it’s because he’s a good writer despite of his inability to spell!

Here, you’ll find a whole page on the world’s most famous bad speller, Benjamin Franklin. Granted, Benjamin wasn’t known for his writing abilities, he did at one time own a publishing house despite his lack(?) of writing abilities due to spelling, he loved reading and writing:

’As a child, I loved to read, write, and collect books; so when it came time to choose a trade, my father decided I would become a printer.’

His love of the written word also inspired him to open the first library in America:

’Through my suggestion, we started a lending library that was open to everyone. We would pool our money and buy books, which people could borrow.’

*~Quotes taken from the Benjamin Franklin site linked above.

That’s a lot of effort put into the literature world for someone who couldn’t spell, if you assume bad spelling equals lack of language comprehension skills isn’t it?

Here at the site, ‘So You Want to Be a Writer’ outlines the bottom line (and one more recognized author who can’t spell), as far as I’m concerned when it comes to spelling and writing abilities:

’ Now, if a book is absolutely brilliant, it's going to get bought anyway. Raymond E. Feist can't spell worth a damn, but nobody cares, to name one example, because his books make the bestseller lists after they're cleaned up. It's worth the expense of hiring a copy editor. (Which is what happens. The in-house editor doesn't do the cleaning up; a freelance copy editor is hired to do it.)’

And here, you’ll find a publisher notes on the book, “Accomodating Broccoli in the Cemetary, or Why Can’t Anybody Spell?”. This is an entire book that takes spelling just as it should be taken, light at heart and comedic when possible, for authors and readers alike. The publisher opens his notes with a quote that struck me:

"It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word." -- Andrew Jackson


Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting post, good links, which I intend to pass on those that are insecure about their writing in view of spelling mistakes.

"It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word." -- Andrew Jackson

This one's a good quote too, it should take away any fears a person may have about their spelling.

I like that reference of 'mabey', I'd surely get my butt kicked if I use this in business unless the person on the other end has a sense of humor & vision similar to Andrew Jackson.

2:53 PM, August 18, 2006  
Blogger Tainted Female said...

lol! Symphony!

I agree with you about 'mabey' and business. That God for spell-check huh?

And you reminded me of something funny. Years ago, I was working in customer service for a television company. We communicated with the main office in Cyprus via email. I had written an email to one of the people there and used the word 'ruff' instead of 'rough'. I never got to live that one down (but I didn't lose my job or the respect - I did get to laugh at it and myself).


5:49 PM, August 18, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

'That God for spell-check huh?'

Now here above you're really pulling a fast one on me, aren't you? LOL :-)

In continuation to your 'ruff', I'm going to give it a shot with 'mabey' and induce a laugh.

7:59 PM, August 18, 2006  
Blogger Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

If one reads a text for its message and its content, one will learn, benefit or be given something from it regardless of its spelling.

If one reads a text with another intention, all one will see is the spelling mistakes, and at the end of the day, that is the readers loss, not the writer.

1:20 AM, August 19, 2006  
Blogger Lizza said...

Good thing not everyone is word-perfect when it comes to spelling. Otherwise, the editors would be jobless. :-)

1:54 AM, August 19, 2006  
Blogger Tainted Female said...


Would you believe me if I said that, ‘that God’ was also unintentional!?

SS… I if remember correctly, you’re known as an ‘author’ someplace else, aren’t you? Yes, I agree with you though I think a certain amount of punctuation knowledge is needed as well as spelling (there is NO excuse for not using a spell check), in official writing, when it comes to poetic or prose it’s something else all together. In blogs, so long as people keep reading, you’re doing alright, I’d say.

SS (now we’ve got two of you), that’s a perfect way of putting it and thinking about it, really. And it’s so very true.

Lizza, lol! Good point! Actually, I was reading somewhere that less than 1 in 100 English speaking people actually have perfect knowledge of the written language. English is probably one of the more difficult languages to get a grasp on when it comes to writing.

11:32 AM, August 19, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

TF: mabey this time I believe ya instead of being called ruff :-) LOL

4:55 PM, August 19, 2006  
Blogger Tainted Female said...


9:17 PM, August 19, 2006  
Blogger adevents said...

Tainted, that is very good point to know, now i am confident that I can write as much as I want as long as there is spell checker, lol I am very bad when it comes to spelling

10:04 AM, August 20, 2006  
Blogger Tainted Female said...


Considering the fact that English is your second language, I’d say any mistakes shouldn’t be a huge worry to you at all. Yes, a spell check is important, but if something like 1 out of 100 people who speak English as a first language actually have a firm grasp on it, what should that ratio be like when it’s a second language?

I hope this means you’ll be updating your blog more often!?!

10:16 AM, August 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

seriously, spelling is not difficult, and i see no reason why "normal" people have trouble with it.

from my experience, the inability to spell runs virulent in the United States of America... so much for the minds of the world's super power.

come to think of it, it's no wonder with a head of state like Dubya.

excuse my punctuation.

3:06 PM, August 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh and by the way...

"considering the fact that English is your second language, I’d say any mistakes shouldn’t be a huge worry to you at all..."

a little patronising, perhaps?

3:07 PM, August 21, 2006  
Blogger Tainted Female said...


1) I consider myself ABnormal, if anything at all. Though I know a lot of ‘normal’ (depending on how you define that) who can’t spell worth shit either.
2) AD and I know each other well enough for him to know there was nothing patronizing in that statement. It’s a fact. And considering the fact that I can’t write or read or speak proper Arabic (like a HUGE percentage of the 1st language English speaking population), I highly doubt he’d take it that way. He knows exactly where I’m coming from.

It’s unfortunate you read it that way…

8:24 PM, August 21, 2006  
Blogger adevents said...

LOL lol lol
that all ican say

10:28 PM, August 21, 2006  

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