Tuesday, January 19, 2010


The conditions have to be just right, but when Jupiter is rising in Saturn, the Dow Jones is up 10 points, there’s no traffic on the 405, and Tori Spelling isn't working on a project that is a pun of her name (Wikipedia claims that unchartered terriTori will soon follow in So NoTORIous and sTORI Telling's footsteps), a miracle happens: my students express a genuine interest in improving their writing skills. On this rare and special occasion, the number one question they ask me is how to become better spellers. Unfortunately, I have to give them the same answer I would give Brad Pitt if he asked me how he could get the tabloids to stop talking about his personal life: you’re better off spending your time on a more realistic goal (For Brad, maybe one that includes a razor.)

Of course, this is only my opinion, but I think spelling is like chicken pox: it becomes more difficult to deal with as an adult. Either you read a lot as a kid and consequently picked it up through osmosis, you’re genetically predisposed to putting the right letters in the right places, or, like most of us, you can never remember whether it’s bananna, bannana or banana.

Now, if as an adult you really really want to improve your spelling you can, but I imagine that most people want to be good spellers in the same way I want to learn French, belly dancing and how to cook Thai food- not enough to sacrifice watching my shows after work. Let’s face it: the English language is tough. There are silent letters and exceptions to every rule. What kind of sadist decided that there were to be two m’s in accommodate, but only one m in accomplish, and only one c in acquire?

Now, having said all that, I don’t at all encourage or accept incorrect spelling. I just don’t think we need to become good spellers to spell correctly. I think we simply need to be a little resourceful.

Obviously, we should use spell check. However, I agree with Professor H. Zar’s perspective on it:
“Every semester I am amazed by the number of students who turn in papers full of typographical errors that would have been caught by spending a few minutes with a spell checker. On the other hand, one should not assume that the spell checker alone can guarantee perfect results...”

This excerpt from his poem shows spell check’s limitations:

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

So, if we can’t rely solely on spell check yet we don’t know how to spell a word, where do we turn? You probably think because I’m an English teacher I am going to say to whip out your dictionary, but I’d be a hypocrite. I have a giant dictionary on my desk and I can’t remember the last time I opened it.

That doesn’t mean I know how to spell every word. However, when I don’t know how to spell a word, I turn to the one thing that seems to know me better than I know myself: Google. For example, one time I typed Pirates of the Carribean into a Google search (I have this thing for Johnny Depp, not pirates) and Google asked me

Did you mean: Pirates of the Caribbean

“I never remember whether there are two b’s or two r’s in Caribbean,” I said to myself. Then, I clicked on the correct spelling, and I got my Johnny Depp pics.

Hello Lover.

So, now I always leave a Google window open when I’m writing anything, and when I come across a word I am not sure how to spell I just type it into Google and 90% of the time Google will show me how I meant to spell it. For the other 10%, I have to phone my smart friends.

But, for those of you who do truly want to learn how to be a better speller, a good place to start would be logging off of Facebook and picking up a book.


Holly Vance said...

After teaching for 13 years, my spelling has gone to Hell in a handbasket.

I probably just made three spelling error.

Joe0740 said...

Spell check has also done me wrong. But I cannot seem to find joy in reading, I love the google tool bar.

Sydney87 said...

I liked reading this post.
I always have my google window open whenever I am writing a paper. The funny thing was that I thought I was the only one who did that.:)
Holly Vance is my teacher and it's true, she is always forgetting how to spell things when she goes to write on the white board. She figures it out eventually though. LOL-lipop

fraaank said...

spell check has always had its problems, especially if someone ADDS words to the computers dictionary.

BsCatty15 said...

Johnny Depp is a hottie for sure! Thanks for the Google Tip!

MelissaGaytan said...

I to check on google (: