Why is correct spelling important?

by Memoona Abbasey
(Hyderabad, India)

Why were spelling standards created? For what purpose do students need to remember the exact spellings of words? By whom and when was the correct spelling of words established?

Doug's Reply. Memorizing the correct spellings of words can be a chore. So perhaps it's natural to wonder why spelling standards exist in the first place.

It's only relatively recently, in the last few hundred years or so, that exact spellings have become the norm. Before that, spellings could and often did vary widely as the language and local usages evolved.

The appearance of published dictionaries accelerated the trend toward standard spellings. Today, almost all major languages have specific spellings defined for their vocabularies. Interestingly, minority languages and regional languages often do not use standards spellings even today.

So why is spelling words correctly important? In my opinion, having an accepted spelling for a word streamlines communication.

If there were no standard spellings, reading the written works of others would be slower, more difficult. Each time you encountered a word that was spelled strangely enough to be unrecognizable, you would need to stop and try to figure out what was meant. Or you might fail entirely at deciphering the word.

With dictionaries and standard spellings, there is no wasted mental energy with regard to how a word is spelled. You either spell each word correctly, or you don't.

Don't be discouraged as you learn to spell. It's a very important skill that you will use constantly throughout your entire life. Spelling words correctly shows those who read what you've written that you are an educated person, someone to be taken seriously.

Poor spelling, on the other hand, causes the reader to wonder whether your thinking and reasoning are similarly inexact.

In his book Super Memory, Super Student, memory master Harry Lorayne describes an interesting trick for remembering how to spell words that have a single confusing letter.

Consider the word "separate". Some people misspell it as "seperate" by writing an "e" in the middle instead of an "a".

To remember to include an "a" in the middle of the word "separate", do the following:

1) Write "sep E rate" five times on a piece of paper. Put an "X" through each capital E.

2) Then write "sep A rate" five times. Draw a circle around each capital A.

That's it. X'ing out the E imprints on your memory that the "e" does not belong. Circling the A teaches your brain that the "a" does belong.

Give this technique a try whenever you run across a word that you have trouble spelling due to a single incorrect letter.

Best of luck to you in your studies.


Comments for Why is correct spelling important?

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Oct 03, 2020
Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you for the practical advice.

Oct 24, 2015
by: Doretha Sacks

Thanks for sharing this information.

Doug's Reply. You're welcome!

Sep 30, 2015
by: Nonal

Very impressive.

Sep 25, 2014
by: Anonymous

I always used tricks to teach my kids how to spell. Like, "a rat" will try to separate you from doing right. Sep'a rat' e...

Oct 15, 2013
Changed meaning
by: David

Incorrect spelling (and punctuation) can change the meaning of your communication to something completely different. Or make it a bit unclear. Or just make you look stupid/lazy (you may not be, but it does give that impression).

Also consider that your audience may not be great spellers. They could easily correct your spelling to a close but completely different word.

Having said that English has a lot of redundancy and you'll get away with it most of the time. But when you don't it may be quite serious.

Mar 18, 2012
You have a spelling error in this!
by: Anonymous

"Poor spelling, on the other hand, causes the reader to wonder whether your thinking and reasoning are similarly inexact."
Notice an error? It shouldn't be your, it should be you're.

Doug's Reply. I do make my share of spelling and grammar mistakes (and typos!), but in this instance you are incorrect.

The word "you're" is a contraction of "you are". Changing my original sentence to "...whether you are thinking and reasoning are similarly inexact" would not be grammatically correct. "Your" is the correct spelling of that possessive pronoun.

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