The War on “Bad” Spelling and Misuse of Language

I love words.

I may not know every single one in the English language, but I truly love them. I love saying random things – maybe even slightly offensive things – just to hear the way they roll off the tongue.

I also feel like this when I write. I like seeing short words, long words, crazily spelled words on a piece of paper or a computer screen.

But I draw the line at poor spelling.  Especially from educated people who know better.

I’m in a profession where spelling counts. Or, at least, that’s what my university professors told me. I suppose I was only one of a handful who actually listened.

In a world where millions of dictionaries, both hardcover and paperback, are still printed year after year, the English language seems to be fighting a long, hard tug-of-war against laziness, electronic short-hand and spell check. And I wonder if it’s not losing.

The other day, my mom mentioned a local talk radio host, who has a show on in the evenings sometimes. Apparently during a segment several weeks ago, he used a word incorrectly. An older female caller phoned in, telling him the real meaning …

And she made the horrible mistake of mentioning she used a dictionary to find it.

Whaaaat?” the host drawled slowly. “You used a dictionary?”

“Yes,” the caller replied.


Yes,” she enthused.

A pause, then …

“Why didn’t you just use Google?”


His reliable source of reference is Google? Where people misuse and misspell words ALL THE TIME?!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, someone also mentioned another instance to me – and I wish I could find the reference – in which educators were actually mulling over the idea to let kids in school spell things whichever way they wanted.

What’s the point in learning “spelling” in class if the kids won’t know the difference between what’s right and wrong?

Even yesterday on a New Zealand parliamentary Web site, there was a write-up about how “plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying apprentices do not have to meet any spelling or writing standards when taking exams for plumbing registration“.

Aw, HELL, no. This nonsense has to stop.

I’m sure I sound right now like I’m either borderline anal-retentive or a touch obsessive-compulsive.

But damned if I have to apologize for my behaviour when it comes to atrocious spelling. 

Outside of work, or while I read e-mails – whatever. If I can understand what people are trying to say, fine. (There are friends that won’t even let that go, and frankly, I don’t blame them.)

But at work – where one of my co-workers has a dictionary on his desk, beside his computer monitor, and STILL refuses to spell things correctly, you can bet I turn into a spelling Nazi. 

A few weeks ago, he wrote something involving the name Guatemala.

Only he spelled it G-U-A-T-A-M-A-L-A.

I noticed it and changed it to the correct spelling.

A little while later, I discovered he changed it back. So I did what any foot soldier of the English language would do: I changed it again.

And what did he do? He changed it the hell back.

So I said in a loud voice, “It’s NOT Gua-TAH-mala. It’s Gua-TAY-mala! With an E!”

He didn’t change it after that.

But this is constant at work. I lost a small battle over the name Anne Frank, and threw up my hands last week after I noticed someone spelled Beirut wrong.

I seriously am beginning to think I should lobby to be the official spell-checker where I work. ‘Cause that’s ridiculous that seasoned veterans of my business can’t spell and it takes most fibres in my being not to yell at them.

I also honestly think that more people – and fantastic spellers at that – should take up the gauntlets and help fight against horrible spelling.

Seriously. Strength in numbers, yo. Who’s with me?

P.S.: It’s sort of funny to me reading this entry weeks later, since I noticed a few spelling errors in my haste to type this out. Someone pointed out my grammar was appalling. Well, I DID say I can turn into a spelling Nazi … not a grammar Nazi. But it’s good to have it pointed out once in a while.

This probably proves I spend too much time in front of the computer and not enough time reading books. Or dictionaries.

7 thoughts on “The War on “Bad” Spelling and Misuse of Language

  1. Cinders says:

    Second last paragraph! LOL! It’s againST horrible spelling! LOL!

    Hey, it’s not only annoying for you – try editing a whole newspaper by yourself written by Russians who can’t spell or speak properly. And then try reading some books and not STOP at every grammar and punctuation error…Grr.

  2. dicampbell says:

    Funny … somehow I KNEW that was going to happen. LOL. I think that was just me typing too fast and then not really catching my own errors. I just fixed it.

    Guess I should put my training to practice and actually read ALOUD when I write these things :). At least you were kind. Heaven knows who else would have seen that and lambasted me. Oops.

  3. Jim says:

    Dear Loquacious- ah, a fellow wordsmith – lovely!
    Never be afraid to correct people – although you may have to work on the technique – people HATE to be corrected (especially In the US as I understand the menfolk over there rather consider themselves above being corrected by a mere woman!). Your spelling may be OK, but I’m afraid your use of English appals me.
    E.g., “bad spelling”? Do you mean the spelling (noun) was bad or that the spelling (verb) was poorly done – in which case poor spelling, lax spelling, appalling spelling etc. etc., would be preferable.
    Try to use ‘suppose’ instead of ‘guess’, and ‘certain’ instead of ‘sure’ – they are completely different words. After all it is the sheer choice of words we have at our disposal and the various nuances of meaning which are therefore available to us which make English the splendid beast it is!

    PS.:Congratulations on using co-worker (hyphenated) and not succumbing to the ‘modern’ trend to use coworker (which makes me wonder how you ‘ork’ a cow????). I hope you also co-ordinate things co-operatively and don’t coordinate them cooperatively (the latter of course bringing barrel making into it un-necessarily!)

    Your sincerely
    Jim Peters (from New Zealand, where we speak English English and have to constantly correct our US based spell-checkers – thanks again Bill Gates!)

  4. This was a good read indeed. In the seventies’ India, we could swear by the spellings in our newspapers (e.g. The Statesman or Hindu). There were scrupulous editors sitting in those dark buildings editing every word before the paper got printed. A spelling blooper was unheard of. However, today, the new generation has taken over. Too busy with Beyonce and too lazy to write full words, they don’t care two hoots about spellings.

    I recently hired one such specimen from one of the local newspapers. while she impressed with the edit test, her first e-mail to me got me thinking . . . here’s an excerpt:

    “He’d told me sometime bk that he is lookin for “fresh talent” n smthin like dat……..So mayb u can give it a shot……I will ping him n let him knw, so that u wont have any long explanations to give him as to whr u got his ID frm n stuff……”

    I was lost. Still am.

  5. Charles says:

    Quote from above: “This nonsense has got to stop.”
    How does nonsense, possessing “got” in any quantity at all, help it to stop? I have no got, I strongly suspect you have no got, and I most certainly have never seen nonsense in possession of got. Similarly, if you can say you have got to go to the store, then you do not need to go. Let your “got” go for you!

  6. Jess says:


    I am currently studying linguistics as a second major in my university degree.
    I too am constantly appalled by poor spelling and attitudes to match (for which I simultaneously blame and thank my English mother- my somewhat anal attitude that is, not everyone else’s dismal skills).
    I cannot claim to be an expert in regards to grammar so my apologies in advance if there are grammatical errors to be found here.

    After approximately two decades of correcting almost everyone I know, from siblings (“If you ever say ‘brang’ instead of ‘brought’ again I’m going to slap you silly”) to schoolmates (“Youse is not a word. The only word remotely like that is ewes, and they are female sheep, which isn’t what you mean, is it?”)- I have recently taken up the somewhat pious hobby of correcting the errors of people I am not personally familiar with.
    Recent victims include a local travel agent who advertised “5 nihts in Fiji” on a chalkboard, and a professor of mine who had written about “the shear complexity” of something in a PowerPoint presentation. Admittedly he is a communications and media professor (and the head of the department no less), not English language studies or linguistics, but I don’t see that that information makes it much, if any, less ridiculous. I generously gave him the benefit of the doubt in my email, which politely informed him of his “typing” error.

    One of Australia’s premier ski resorts, Perisher Blue, managed to spell the name of our country incorrectly in the title of their home page. How does this happen, exactly? Don’t these companies know about proofreaders? Or did they hire one who is illiterate? I emailed them a few weeks ago about the non-existent country “Austraila” and they allowed it to remain incorrect for weeks- I actually checked just now and noticed for the first time it has been corrected. God only knows how long it was there before I noticed it.

    Would you let a travel agent or a ski resort organise your holiday when they clearly struggle to organise the letters of the English alphabet into coherent words?

    I found Charles’ comment to be amusing. Hooray for fellow English champions! We may not get all of it right all of the time but at least we are fighting the good fight!

    …oh, and if you happen to come to ‘Austraila’ during the ski season, you may want to head to Thredbo.


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