Trails of a Bad Spellor

Picture a small boy. A pleasant lad, standing in sixth grade against a classroom wall. His classmates are lined shoulder to shoulder, faces forward, anticipation and determination gracing their eager faces. A list of words is proffered down the line, one to each child who, in turn, must spell back the word in clearly enunciated English. The words are easy at first. In the first pass none are expected to be asked to sit down. The first group of words are part of the ‘confidence building’ round. But as the first-round word reaches our young man, he stammers a bit, trying hard, but it is to no avail. He can’t spell it. He is asked to sit. He sits alone for four more passes through every child in the line before the next person joins him at the lonely desks. It is a spelling bee and our little rapscallion is always first down, a reminder that he is lacking some aspect of normalcy—he is endowed with a deep flaw that he does not share with his peers.

Alas, the boy is me. I admit this in hopes that my story will inspire others who lack this basic human skill. A non-speller in a spelling world is a hard thing. Hard indeed. But you need more context. A few more incidents will set the stage for this blight upon my character, but there are some things you must know before I lead you into the depths of my humiliation. First, you must understand that I read voraciously. I always have. By eighth grade I was reading at a college sophomore level. Second, I love poetry and love to write (in all that follows when I imply I am a good writer that is to be interpreted in contrast to my spelling. I’m under no illusions of grandeur here believe me!). These things are common enough, but combined with my story that exposes the depth of my inability to spell, it will seem unbelievable and lead some of you to believe that I must be a prevaricator and teller of tall tales. A crass, BS-er if you will. For many have questioned when confronted with my scribblings whether I have any facility with the written word at all. As an employer said to my father in my senior year of high school, “He is, in fact, functionally illiterate.”

It is more than spelling. My errors appear with abandon. “Their” and ‘there’ seem to be used almost randomly. A ‘not’ will appear where it should not, or be missing from where it should have place. ‘Has’ and ‘as’ are negotiated almost willy-nilly. Plurals form from nowhere and words are duplicated without reason. If there are two forms of a word I will choose the wrong one. It is a twisted and aberrant malady. And I cannot see them. They are as invisible to me as the air.

Let us begin on my mission, even though the story could easily start at any point after the second grade. I’ve just penned a heart warming story of missionaries who meet their goals by exercising the power of faith in true Grant von Harrison fashion. It is a masterful act of storytelling, a moving tale that left both Sister Davidson and Elder Norman in tears. I give it to my mission president and wait for the kudos that I know must follow such a bold excursion into creative genius, but he comes back in with my story covered in red circles and says simply, “This is unacceptable. You will not be able to do this kind of work in college.” Cold and raw correction. Meant to inspire me? It did not I fear. For it allowed a modicum of the doubt and uncertainty (that we all can claim as humans I suppose) to bubble up and destroy a tad more of what self image I was trying construct around my desire to be a writer.

Freshman English. Our first paper is due. I work hard and turn it in. A friend helps me get the spelling right. Shortly thereafter, our papers are turned back. All except mine. Lark, my beautiful and stunningly gorgeous graduate student teacher, says I should see her after class (I was in love with Lark. We were the same age because the Army and my mission had left me an older freshman than usual and I fancied as I listened moon-eyed to her lectures that we must have made certain promises to one another in the pre-existence.) We retreat to her office. Should I ask her out? She holds up my paper, “I think you plagiarized this.” I step back. “Do you know what plagiarism means?” Did she just say that slowly, like you would to a dim child? “No I wrote every word I say.” She smirks sceptically like the Grinch. “I’ve seen your in-class essays. You can’t write like this.” (And it is true, all my class essays were returned with loads of the same red circles my Mission President was so fond of.) I tell her, “Admittedly, I can’t spell. That’s all.” She says, “If that’s true where did you learn to write like this” (The piece was later submitted to a radio writing contest and played on air. I won $50 gift certificate to Provo’s fanciest restaurant and it could have been Lark who shared that meal if things had played out differently. Alas.). I’m reaching for anything to redeem myself, and so I challenge her in desperation, “I’ve read more books than you have.” It was a weak attempt at a stall, but we start a “Have you read this?” contest. It soon becomes apparent that not only am I well read, but I can hold my own in discussing content and ideas. She finally believes I wrote the piece but decides I need help and maternally tells me to enroll in remedial spelling. A ‘99’ level class designed to make up high school deficiencies. I thank her. I don’t ask her out.

I take the class. Under its aegis I go from about a six grade spelling level to an eighth or ninth grade level. It is a triumph. Of sorts. But at the same time as I am plugging away at The most common misspelled words in the English language, Bruce Bastian and Alan Ashton are inventing WordPerfect—and the spell checker—a prosthetic device that will change my life. Freed at last from the need of passing everything by indulgent friends I can at make my move. I decide to major in English. A dream come true for the kid from Moab. A win in the Meyhew Short Story contest had emboldened me and I was feeling daring and empowered. With WordPerfect no one need ever know my secret shame.

I enroll in a class on English literature prior to 1600. I decide to bypass all the 200 level classes because I’ve read everything on the lists. The class is amazing and I am in heaven as we read Piers the Plowman, Canterbury Tales, The Song of Roland. I can’t get enough. I am happier than I’ve ever been. In class I am Hermione Grangeresque— my hand waving in the air at every opportunity. Then it happens. Our first test is an in-class examination. Blue books. The request that we bring those little notebooks meant an essay test and this would be closed-book. I show up shaking with fear. I’m about to be exposed as a fraud, a pretentious charlatan. And so it is. The test comes back after about a week. I’ve been rather subdued in class lately, afraid of what the future holds. I open it, hoping for the best, but there are marks everywhere like some sort of post-modern art called red circles and blue lines. I’ve flunked. No comment on the content of my writing—only red circles with little ‘-1’s beside them, each one removing a point from my starting 100. By the end of the exam I am well into negative numbers. I sit silently through the remainder of class with big wet eyes repeating the mantra, ‘Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry’. I cannot major in English. I drop the class and wander in darkness for a time, ending finally in that gang of ruffians and ner-do-wells who care not a wit about your spelling as long you show some flash with a calculator and know how to handle the probabilities: Statistics. An unsavoury lot, yes, but we take what company we can get.

I discover in biology classes, the subject of ecology and evolution and start to frame an idea of doing quantitative and evolutionary ecology. Clearly my days of literature are over. I could not even hear the word ‘English major’ without cringing. I dated one once (a person not the word), but I felt so unworthy in her presence the relationship could not be sustained—what if she found out about my spelling? If we married would my refrigerator love notes be covered in red circles?

Well, word processors kept me hidden for the most part. I was discovered from time to time, to my harm and embarrassment, as happened once at UNC-Chapel Hill in my biostatistics program when my Wetlands Ecology professor passed out an in-class essay test. You know what’s coming. It was returned; again with the shaming circles of red earmarking and highlighting my damnation. He wrote on my paper, “You can’t spell. See me!” He was horrified. He told me my problem had its roots in that the schools today do not teach Greek and Latin. To him, I became a symbol for all that’s wrong with 20th century education. Once gain I was reduced to the single dimension of my greatest character flaw. In class I quit raising my hand and starting sitting in the back. I quit caring about making an impression and became aloof, cavalier and supercilious. When he asked for a one-page technical write-up on a wetlands excursion to a nearby lake we had taken, I wrote a four page narrative poem in iambic pentameter, rhyming words like “zone one census” and “Impatiens capensis” He wrote on my paper, “Interesting format. This will do nothing for your career.” Sadly, I had asked him prior to the ‘spelling incident’ to be a recommender for my Ph.D. applications to Biology programs at Harvard, Princeton and Berkeley (oh, I dreamed big in my starry youth). Unfortunately, he sent the letters after my exposure as base-minded scrub. I was accepted to nary a single program despite prior phone calls to my proposed dissertation advisors, who had been enthusiastic when they had only my CV to go on. Something about my letters of recommendation had changed their minds. There was no doubt who sank me and why.

But in math who cares about spelling. I was free of misjudgement and math came easily to me. A bunch of rules and recipes. And so, biomathematics became a drug; Functional Analysis, a way to drown the sorrow of failure; proofs, a narcotic for despair. But still, I was bitter, and in secret, late at night, I wrote novels that no one would read and wrote bête noire poems that piled up like scattered Styrofoam containers blown against the cold galvanized steel of a chain link fence surrounding an inner-city McDonalds. At Christmas each year I would join in singing with passion, gusto, and pathos the song “We’re from the Island of Misfit Toys . . .” as I watched Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer. At the appropriate point, I would add to the list of islanders—Charlie-in-a-box, train with square wheels, cowboy riding an ostrich—‘writer who can’t spell.’ I can’t listen to that song without tears running down my face. Sigh.

So there you have it. It is only a sketch of my walk in this world as a non-speller. I can only give cursory outline to the major events in what amounts to thousands of such incidences, losses, and costs. It is a cautionary tale of sorts, about the hardness of the world and the snatching of dreams. I don’t know why I can’t spell, but if you’ve followed my blogs you’ll see it often. No doubt it is in this post as well. It seems something deeply embedded in my neurology and its remaining after years of trying to fix is strange and disheartening and speaks of a cold determinism for some things in this world. But there it is. My shame exposed to the world. It does feel good to come out of the closet.

Comments

  1. Anon for this says:

    I have a child with this problem (he is now a missionary himself). At Eighth Grade, he had a wonderful, loving, and compassionate teacher, who decided to read out loud what was phonetically on the page. She realized he was a thoughtful creative writer, but it was masked by the spelling errors (of exactly the type you describe), leading him to be placed in classes that were not challenging his mind properly. She had me come in, and together with the school counselor, arranged for testing. He qualified for a Section 504 Accommodation, and from that moment on, teachers were not allowed to judge his work by spelling. Spelling came entirely off the table as far as school work was concerned. His placement in classes jumped, he began taking honors and AP courses in high school, and then made straight-As in his freshman year of college. (As far as work-product, he uses word processing software… but his handwritten missionary letters are, well, we read them out loud.)

    Your story is a sad indictment of judgmental practices in this world of spellers. I just wanted to let others know that if they or their child has this problem, it doesn’t have to have the discouraging outcome it did for you.

    (Anonymous for this, because I don’t have the luxury of getting my son’s permission to tell the story, so I don’t want him identified.)

  2. Mark Brown says:

    Lark missed out, and it serves her right.

  3. Steven,

    I am tragified just reading your story.

    #1 Thanks for the happier ending to your story.

  4. You may be interested in becoming a spelling activist. In all seriousness, it’s a terrific essay and provides some great food for thought.

    Thanks for sharing. As someone who once graded papers and now works on a team where it is necessary to review others’ work, your essay is a nice reminder of the need to keep one’s spelling and grammar prejudices in check, or better yet thrown out.

  5. My son’s problem is that he got all the math answers correct, but he couldn’t memorize the standard rules to get there so he had to use what worked for him. I can’t express how frustrating it was to see work that was docked for not following the standard path even though he got to the same destination.

  6. My husband is also a non-speller. Not quite to the level that you indicate, but still fairly bad. Most of the time the spellchecker can’t even figure out what he’s trying to say. He’s in charge of the Sacrament Meeting program and bulletin at church, and after a few weeks the bishop took me aside and asked me to proofread the bulletin before it is printed. I don’t think my husband has ever been more humiliated than when the bishop made “corrections” to the bulletin from the pulpit.

    He’s chosen to dive into the world of science, too, specifically Physics. I’m glad there’s a place he feels comfortable expressing his genius ideas without ridicule. Supposed “learning disabilities” seem to be a somewhat common theme among the brilliant physicists he’s known.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    A lovely essay. Thanks for your willingness to share with us such a personal story.

    This reminded me of my class spelling bee in grammar school. I was a pretty good speller and lasted until there were just two of us left. The word to spell was “know,” and I had a total brain freeze; I just couldn’t picture it, and I spelled it “no.” So I lost at the end. (Which is to say that on a very, very small scale I can imagine the humiliation of multiplying that experience by thousands.)

  8. For me it was handwriting. In the first grade my handwriting was passed around in class as a bad example. It did not build my confidence…

    Not only is my handwriting terrible, I get cramps when I try for any sustained period. I am so grateful for software solutions that eliminate the need to write with pen in hand.

    It’s good for us to realize that we have different challenges, and the fact that someone, who writes as well as you do, has had to get over some hurdles, can be encouraging to those who struggle.

  9. Steven, this mother of a dyslexic boy who can’t spell but dreams of becoming a scholar of the classics thanks you.

  10. I got an email out of the blue from my fifth grade teacher. I was in her first year of teaching and she was following up with that class 20 years later. I was delighted to hear from her. She was delighted to see that I had received an advanced degree and appeared somewhat successful in my chosen profession. Then she asked, “So, how is your spelling?”

    Spell-check, I love you.

  11. I had exactly the opposite experience. I’m a great speller without trying at all, and I went through school thinking it was a special virtue of mine. (My moment of humiliation was being runner-up in the state spelling bee after misspeling ‘coadjutor’.) I’m embarrassed to think how old I was before I realized that, for me, being a good speller is no more virtuous than having brown eyes. It also, as I’ve discovered to my sorrow, is not the mark of great intelligence–I now know LOTS of people like Steven, who are at least a couple of standard deviations smarter than I am and are crummy spellers.

    If only I could do math…

  12. oh, crap. And misspelling misspell!!

  13. I recall my second grade teacher mocking me for misspelling my own name. I guess I was in a hurry.

  14. I can spell…adequately well. It used to be some point of pride. Big deal, though? It’s hardly a bragging right.

    I do have a friend who is has dyslexia (which, quite frankly, sounds like what you are suffering from–not the full blown version of where you have trouble reading as well, but a version of it). He reads, though slowly, and well. But his spelling is terrible. Atrocious.

    The truth of the matter is that English is a difficult language to spell. Worse yet, everytime you think you know the correct formula for putting a word to paper, there are forty-five exceptions to your intricate rule. Rote memorization is the key, and the list of available words hovers around a million. Combine that with the homonyms and other trickiness and you just can’t win. Grammatical rules don’t make it easier.

    For those who are just learning to spell, or are relying heavily on word-processors to assist them, let me give just one bit of advice. Play Scrabble. Seriously. If you have trouble spelling and want to get better the least painful way to do it is via word games. These will hone your mind to come up with the correct spelling more quickly. Force yourself to play by the official rules (no dictionary, and if you misspell it, then you lose a turn) every other game at the very least. I learned my letters from this game, and to this DAY I still write the letter Q with a 10 underneath it…

    (er, not really)

  15. My three school/college aged kids are brilliant, but cannot spell for anything. My 15 yo daughter gets so frustrated with herself because she cannot spell. It was especially hard for her taking Spanish — a very phonetic language that she still had trouble spelling. She is now taking Italian and was so stressed a couple weeks ago because she was worried about being graded on spelling.

    I just had a conference with my 8yo’s teacher. I explained his spelling situation to her. I told her his spelling is horrible and it stresses him out when he is asked to correct it himself, because he can’t just can’t figure it out. I asked her to please just tell him the correct spelling of words instead of asking him to correct it himself.

    I feel for my kids. I have generally been a very good speller; so it was hard for me to figure out what the problem was for them. (My husband is very much like the kids. I had originally just thaought that maybe it was a problem with the So Utah school system — like they didn’t teach spelling or something.)

    I appreciate you sharing your experience Steven.

  16. ESO, no fair just leaving a comment and then leaving without telling us the big news. C’mon sister. Dish!

  17. I was, with Kristine, at the other end of the spectrum. Except I remember going down, with most of the rest of the class in 4th grade (I think) on “secretary” and in 5th grade on “necessary”.

    And, I cannot comment about virtue and brown eyes. Blue eyes, on the other hand . . .

  18. I lost my 4th grade spelling bee by spelling conqueror with an “er.”

    Firefox is my light and my salvation!

  19. My spelling humiliation was accompanied by utter bewilderment. I misspelled a word as “acheivement.” The teacher corrected me in front of the class and I defended myself by reciting “i before e except after c” — and she laughed, thinking I was joking. I wasn’t. It was years before I understood — which also taught me not to assume that people always understand the rules in the way the rule-maker intended.

  20. I spell fine, I just can’t type for anything…

  21. I can/t! punctuate; I s’pell fin.e [though

  22. My husband is a horrible speller. Our daughter is, too. It comes really easily for me. But I’m a very text-based, visual thinker. My husband and my daughter are very spacial. Our youngest son is a terrific speller/reader and it used to bug my daughter to no end when her little brother, age 6, would correct her spelling/pronounciation.

  23. Steven,

    Thank you for sharing. I am one who has the spelling gene, and have never had issues with spelling. I used to think I was special, but have figured out that there are people who can spell, and people who can’t, just as there are people with freckles, and people without.

    But you do point out a problem with education. Too often, we can’t see beyond the spelling or punctuation errors to the core of the writing beneath it. College professors often are the worst at this kind of thing. I remember a freshman english composition class where papers were returned with red marks that referenced specific pages and paragraphs in a grammar text that was used for the class, with no thought to what was being written. It was very frustrating that a misplaced comma or misspelled word in those days before word processing could blind an otherwise intelligent person to what a sentence really said.

    My spelling problems come from what I call typing dyslexia. Too fast on the keyboard, and not looking at the keys (Thank you or curse you, 9th grade typing class!). It is easy enough to correct, but some of us remember those days of onionskin erasable typing paper, and the little round erasers with the brush attached for wiping away the crumbs of typing errors. Then came whiteout and the correction tape, and finally, the IBM Selectric with the little white spool of sticky tape that allowed me to remove my errors as if they didn’t exist. Word Perfect was a revelation, and I still have a copy of WP 6.1 that I still use from time to time when I want more specific control of my documents that Word won’t give me.

    Progress…..

  24. And as others have pointed out, English doesn’t play by all the rules, as in the famous example of the phonetic spelling of “ghoti” for “fish”.

  25. It was hard for me to read this. Not because of any spelling errors but because it’s such a heartbreaking story!

    Fortunately, we know that you’ve gone on to live the writer’s dream of blogging at BCC.

    [Pauses for dramatic effect]

    I myself am a terrific speller, but my brilliant father (also a scientist) still spells cheese with a Z and refuses to spell choir any way but “chior.” He says the other way just doesn’t look right. Back when people were mocking Dan Quayle for misspelling potato, I’d tell them my dad was the smartest person I knew, and I bet he couldn’t spell “potato”–and he’s from Idaho!

  26. molly bennion says:

    When my husband was an undergraduate at Harvard, one of his professors asked each person to come to the front of the classroom to get his paper so the professor could unite name and face. He called my husband up first, told him his was the best paper, really excellent thinking, then asked “Is English your native language?” As usual, his native English spelling was creative. He went on to earn 2 Harvard degrees and build a successful career, all before spellcheck. Just think what he could have done with spellcheck all the way! One intellectual weakness doth not a man make.

  27. This should be required reading for every fourth grade teacher out there. A gripping story, captivating from end to end, and we know there’s a happy ending, but oh, the getting there! It brought tears to my eyes.

    Wow.

  28. To complete your ghoti dinner, make sure you also serve ghoughpteighbteaus:

    Take a p from hiccough,
    o from though,
    t from ptomaine,
    a from neigh,
    t from debt, and
    o from bureau.

    Ah, the magnificent English language.

    (One reason I like German.)

    Thanks for the essay, Steven P. I have a struggling elementary school speller, and it’s an interesting insight into his possible experiences.

    And why does the bad spelling gene usually show up in males?

  29. GWB, POTUS (for now) says:

    I’m real glad I found this here discussion. Sometimes when you can’t talk or spell good, folks think you’re dumb, and they misunderestimate your intelligence. We don’t need to pay no attention to spelling as long as we are asking: Is our children learning?

  30. We’ve got an entire elementary school full of bad spellers here. It’s the side effect of a language immersion magnet school. Our kids can express themselves effectively in one of five different offered languages, but the limited exposure they have to English means they lag in spelling skills.

  31. Chad Too,
    You misspelled “lack” and “skilz”.

  32. I loved this story even though like Rebecca I didn’t struggle personally with spelling (other than being relegated to the alternate in the 7th grade bee due to a misspelling of the word camouflage).

    On an up note, My father misspelled banjo on a T-shirt 25 years ago and a small-town music festival known as the “Fiddle and Bango Contest” has been popular ever since–if he would have been a good speller, it might have never gotten off the ground.

  33. LEE!
    Thanks for lending us Steve in the summer!

  34. Dear Susan M.,

    I think you’re pretty spacial yourself!

    Researcher:

    No wonder Dan Quayle had trouble.

  35. #4– I still think it’s OK to discriminate against bad grammar. I don’t think Steve’s experience was an appeal to ignore grammar, but rather shows that precise and profound prose can be separated from spelling.

  36. I wonder if some Finnish kids have this problem. Finland is small enough and the language isolated enough that in the early 20th century there was a through going orthography reform. If you can say a word you can spell it. This was great as a new missionary, I could read anything and be understood, long before I could speak.I’m sure there are dyslexic Finns but I wonder if they have problems spelling.

  37. I still think it’s OK to discriminate against bad grammar.

    I think you will find yourself in good company on teh interwebs.

  38. You have a learning disability. If you are smart enough to compensate, things work out fine. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You just happen to have a weakness is that is pretty marked, yet narrow enough to be worked around.

    My son’s teacher tells me my son is smart (which of course I already knew). He seems to be compensating just fine despite his weaknesses (language disorder) so far. He is in 3rd grade.

    One of the hardest things is to not be one of those parents who says/thinks “My child is not stupid, he just has a learning disability.” The unsaid premise is that everyone else’s child with a weakness actually is stupid and you don’t want your child lumped in with all those other stupid kids. Hmmmm.

  39. My English professor was intrigued by my misspellings. For example, I spelled the name of the philosopher “Horace” in the Egyptian way: “Horus.” And worse yet, I taught Freshman English and sometimes corrected correct spelling with my bad spelling. That’s a bit embarrassing. My professor corrected my spelling, helped me structure my papers, gave me an A- in his class, and then married me. Since then, I have given him four children. Three of them can’t spell.

  40. Oh, Steve, your story could be mine, except that I determinedly stayed in the English department at BYU and, with the help of a roommate who was a spelling ace, I have the diploma to prove it. Now my husband (who is also a perfect speller) threatens to call BYU and have my degree rescinded everytime I yell from my office to his asking for the spelling of a word when I’m so far off that spell-check can’t figure it out.
    So, three cheers for unspellers!

  41. StillConfused says:

    The problem with spell check is that it does not recognize properly spelled words in improper situations. “Hope your having a great day.” Arghhhh… misspellings stick out to me. I am unable to focus on the rest of the message because my spelling and grammar police are on full alert. My siblings and children are the the same way.

  42. J. Michael says:

    It’s a small mind that knows only one way to spell a word.

  43. My little brother is like this. By the way, I totally feel your writing ability. You had me laughing out loud at your hilarious wonderful metaphors. Do math if you love it but no matter what, you should definitely write!

    My brother is a genius, and so is my endocrinologist and long time friend, and neither of them can spell at all. Brother was constantly flunking in school with brilliant writing that was executed with his terrible spelling and rotten handwriting.

    Everyone’s brain works differently. It’s such a nonissue! It just seems that the sort of mind who gravitates to teaching children also gets totally hung up on the details of spelling and punctuation. It’s ridiculous. We have machines that can do that. It’s nothing at all to do with intelligence. I think such minds are often so proud of their own modest accomplishments, which chiefly feature good spelling, grammar, and punctuation, that they take delight in pointing out others’ failings in those areas. Meanwhile they see none of their own failings in imagination, creativity, or pure delightsomeness.

    Is there anyone duller than a spelling-corrector? Seriously. You are the one who should be pitying them, certainly not the reverse!

  44. It just seems that the sort of mind who gravitates to teaching children also gets totally hung up on the details of spelling and punctuation.

    OK, that’s not fair. First of all, teachers take flak for not teaching kids the basics, and then when they do they are accused of being pedantic. Second, you need a narrower brush with which to paint an entire profession, Tatiana.

    For the record, this is fundamentally bad teaching:

    No comment on the content of my writing—only red circles with little ‘-1’s beside them, each one removing a point from my starting 100.

    Starting with a numeric total and detracting for errors is inconsistent with accepted professional practice. A balanced rubric which takes spelling into account as an issue of readability would be more appropriate.

    And my love for printing and graphic design was unrequited because of unsteady hands and colorblindness.

  45. I’m surprised there are so many of us! It’s amazing to me that so many have had similar experiences. It seems like a little thing not to be able to spell, but as you can see it’s changed everything about who I am and what opportunities I’ve had.

    For the record, this is fundamentally bad teaching.

    Yeah, I’ve always thought so to! One thing I have to say though, is while this post focused on the way my life was redirected in negative ways, there have also been many who have helped and nurtured me along the way. In particular, I remember my BYU Creative Writing teacher who started with a couple of red circles on my first assignment but quickly gave up (with an obligatory comment that she had to make as a teacher of writng ‘you need to work on your spelling’) and focused on the content. She never corrected my spelling again on a single paper and started critiquing my writing as such and made me a better writer. So maybe that’s the kind of post I’ll have to write next time to bring a positive spin and point out the world is full of helpful people too!

    Sorry about your colour-blindness and shaky hands, Norbert. Maybe this could be a heads up for software designers to invent a color checker, sort the equivalent of a spell checker, maybe using hatching’s for different colors or something. :)

  46. StillConfused says:

    I went to my daughter’s teacher about the lack of education in spelling and grammar. The teacher’s response was (word for word) “What’s the point? That is what spell check is for?” So I taught spelling and grammar at home.

  47. Words to live by, #42. I can see Gus McCrae scribbling it onto his “we don’t rent pigs” motto sign even now.

  48. Oh I had plenty of education about it. Just none of it would stick.

  49. I must say this, I suffer from the same sort of thing, where spelling mistakes seemingly pop out of their own accord and seem almost invisible to me. My malady is not as severe as the one you have outlined, as I have now, after many years of toil, been able to catch most of them as I make them. However, there are still silly little ones, the simple ones, the slip by me. Missing endings of of words, extra letters on some, the wrong word entirely, ect, ect.

    With that said, even if I cannot relate to the same degree as you, I can relate a bit. With that in mind, PUBLISH YOUR STORIES! Find some editor, or a friend, or several friends, and have them pick apart and fix your spelling issues and get the spelling fixed. Then publish them. If you truly do have the level of proficiency that would be required to even consider being a English major, then chances are will read your books, and if they tell stories worth telling can you afford to NOT share them?

    The only reason why I harp about this is because, despite all the little errors I leave littered in my writing, I’m still writing. When I’m done I’ll have of my work to someone better suited to see my invisible errors then I. You want a self confidence builder? Have a friend tell you that your story is brilliant, publish it, and then get complete strangers to tell you they enjoyed it.

  50. As a teacher, I mark papers strictly in non-red colors. I prefer purple or green.

  51. Norbert, I was totally excluding any readers of BCC, who obviously would never be so narrow minded! And of course there are plenty of excellent teachers of children too. In my zeal to jump to Steven P’s defense, forgot to say that. (blush)

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