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Spelling in the 21st Century

October 12, 2009
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I honestly don’t understand how a student can miss the fact that “surgical” is not spelled “sergical.” It’s not like “your” and “you’re,” where the computer can’t tell the difference. There’s no way around it: this student wrote this and then printed it out out while completely ignoring the red line her computer drew underneath the word.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Alderson Warm-Fork permalink
    October 12, 2009 8:42 pm

    I think you may have missed the point – your student probably means ‘sergical’ as ‘related to sergals’: http://images.google.ca/images?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rlz=1R1GGGL_en-GB___CA344&um=1&sa=1&q=sergal&btnG=Search+images&aq=f&oq=&start=0

  2. October 12, 2009 8:57 pm

    Annoying, no doubt, but I hope you didn’t let it effect the student’s grade — I mean, if you’re fair, it should have very little affect on it.

    (Please pardon my affect.)

  3. October 13, 2009 2:45 am

    Ah the democratisation of spelling. It irritates me greatly, but I suppose it’s a valid point that if someone can make themselves understood clearly and easily, then their spelling is fine – regardless of whether it matches the dictionary.

    Seriously, after studying some Byzantine Greek, where everyone just makes up whole words as they go along, I feel more positively disposed to people who misspell stuff now and again.

  4. Vidya permalink
    October 13, 2009 4:17 am

    If today’s youth have replaced much of their passive TV-watching time with active engagement with internet-based technology, then I’m not sure if the old argument that ‘kids don’t read anymore’ can even be invoked here. I mean, if one spent all his/her online time using chat (and chatting with only other literacy-challenged folk), then maybe; but I assume most teenagers and twenty-somethings use the internet much as I do — some chat, some email (including to/with persons of higher status, where spelling and grammar ‘count’), and lots of blog and news-site reading. So, if anything, young people ought to be better spellers than my own TV-addicted generation. I’m at a loss to explain it, even though I see it frequently in my own students’ work.

  5. October 13, 2009 10:56 am

    If a student sends an organization a cover letter/resume that have numerous spelling and writing errors, this may hurt his/her chances of getting employment. Because I think part of my job is helping prepare students to gain employment after college, I am fairly strict in correcting (and penalizing) writing/spelling errors.

  6. October 13, 2009 4:37 pm

    I think that enforcing spelling is in part just making students conform to an arbitrary social norm (these things could be—and have been—spelled differently). But I also think that AL is right: part of our jobs as instructors is to help students acclimate to standards, whatever they are, and even if we demystify or denaturalize those standards at the same time. Plus, I think college should be hard work.

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