I rejoiced early in the advent of computers when they introduced spell-check, for I am the world’s worst speller. I’m much better than I used to be. I have actually learned some of the spelling rules and have mastered spelling some of English’s more sneaky words. I confess “i” and “e” still throw me occasionally. However, the magic and genius of “spell-check” has made my writing a much less tedious chore.
Because it requires great labor for me to produce an appropriate written page, it bothers me, to no end, when folks cut corners when writing in the virtual world. I don’t know how many times I have received an email or text message written totally in lower case letters; I mean completely void of capital letters. Needless to say, there is no attempt to spell words correctly. Often these pieces are written in “virtual write.” You know, that’s where “your” is spelled as “ur” and “are” is spelled as “r.” I suspect this abbreviated form of writing has fostered a laziness in writing which has discouraged authors from devoting time to running “spell-check” much less to have concern a word may be misspelled.
Recently, I had the opportunity to review a lengthy document written by a study group of post graduate students. I was appalled at the grammar and spelling mistakes and the general lack of cohesion in the written document. These were not eighth graders writing beyond their capabilities. Nope, these young people were all college graduates working on earning a Master’s degree. I can’t explain it. I don’t know why our young people are not taught to write. But, obviously they are not.
I read in the newspaper recently of the account of a state public education organization which has removed handwriting from the curriculum of prerequisite skills. It seems as if our educators have concluded our youth do not need to write legibly anymore, since everyone either types on the computer or texts their messages. When young people are forced to write an essay, often it can barely be read because of the poor quality of the scrawl.
A whole set of questions rises: Why should folks be required to write legibly? Why should grammar and style be important? Why should we even be concerned that words are spelled correctly? Computers can do most of that stuff for us. Well, I suppose those who advocate less attention be spent on handwriting, grammar, and spelling have grounds for their argument.
I suppose in the future somewhere communication will advance to the point where we will no longer depend on the written word. Perhaps we will simply transmit complicated words and visuals telepathically. Our signature will no longer be necessary, we will simply imprint our DNA on the communication –be it holographic visuals or even mental images transmitted directly from one brain to another. It will no longer be necessary to write, type, or even read. Maybe someday, in some distant future, that will be the case.
However, it ain’t today. Today it is still appropriate and proper for people to write in complete sentences with correctly spelled words. (I claim literary license to use “ain’t” instead of “isn’t. Dramatic, wasn’t it?) That means we should use the tools provided us to present a well written product—even if that product is only an email message or a text message. I am very fond of my “spell-check” feature on my computer. Even so, I also have a handy 3.5-inch by 6-inch plastic covered Webster’s dictionary next to my keyboard. Because, even with all of technology at my fingers, I still feel safe thumbing through my little pocket dictionary. I firmly believe everyone should have one; and even more firmly believe they should actually use it.