Can I get an AMEN??

I am an editor. I am trained to have a critical eye when it comes to correct use of the English language. The lack of proper spelling and grammar in our culture today is appalling and unacceptable--to me, at least. The following article makes my point perfectly.

Can you spell ILLITERACY?

We're all in deep doo-doo. Forget for a minute that schools don't teach enough math and science. The principal at my daughter's school explained to me that spellin' doesn't matter. "We don't worry about spelling here. That's what spell-checkers are for!"

My 9th-grade English teacher saw this differently, bless her soul. At the top of one of my papers she wrote in a very heavy hand, "Poor spelling is a sign of ILLITERACY!!!" I still cringe thinking about it. Me? Illiterate? That was like being told I smelled as if I hadn't wiped my butt before leaving the house. Basics, Kid! What's wrong with you? Simple shame worked. I started looking up words I wasn't sure of.

You can pretend your writing skills don't matter, but poor spelling, poor grammar, poor use of language -- ILLITERACY -- will bog you down at some point in your career, and you may not even know it. You might be the most brilliant manager, programmer, scientist or CEO, but ILLITERACY will cost you.

In Entrepreneur magazine's Pen to Paper: Writing skills are vital for today's employees, but few have them, Mark Henricks writes about companies that use writing tests when recruiting. More power to them.

You're not hopeless if you can't write and spell well. But it's not likely your company will help you come up to par. Take a writing course for adults. Read challenging books and jot down words you don't know; look them up. Get some solid reference books and use them. My favorites are listed here: Does spellin' matter? They don't cost any more than good technical books.

If you find yourself making excuses or offering explanations, don't. The only people who will listen are ILLITERATE. I'm not ragging on you or trying to rouse your ire. I'm telling you that we're in deep doo-doo because ILLITERACY is now being justified by educators who teach our kids to rationalize rather than learn.

Posted by Nick Corcodilos on July 10, 2007

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