Spelling bees in my bonnet (1)

I work with language, so it goes without saying (I hope) that I care about spelling.

Cartoon Bees

That said, I don’t think texting heralds the death of the English language and I don’t fall from my chair with horror if an email or text arrives with minor spelling mistakes. Indeed, I think texting and Twitterese are new skills that I haven’t really mastered yet.

I hate making spelling mistakes myself, though – that’ll be the Virgo in me.

It also bugs me to see “official” writing – business letters, newsletters, reports, web content, books, marketing material – with spelling errors. And don’t get me started on CVs. You don’t need to know all the difficult words by heart – we’ve all got spell-checkers and should use them, and dictionaries, albeit with due care. Printing out your material before you finalise it is another – for me essential – way to check for spelling and other errors.

Some people say spelling accuracy isn’t that important, as long as the meaning is clear – communication is all. I take their point, for people who haven’t been taught properly, who have dyslexia or some other language disorder, or who just can’t get to grips with spelling.

For the rest of us, and especially for language workers, correct spelling is a sign of professionalism and enhances our credibility. Bad spelling indicates a lack of care and a disregard for our readers.

All of that said, we’ve probably all got our spelling bugbears. Mine are gauge, manoeuvre and Libya (which I use week in, week out in my translation work but always stumble over). Yesterday I got stuck with “intriguing”.

I’d love to hear your comments on spelling – have you got your own bugbear? Are there any words that non-native English-speakers find particularly hard or annoying? (I won’t say “illogical” as that probably encompasses most of the language!)

Beez courtesy of Jelene Morris

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. Call me an old-fashioned ‘fuddy-duddy’: I care passionately about spelling, grammar and punctuation, especially in a business context. I’m not too bothered about text and Twitter messages.

    Business correspondence that contains mistakes creates an immediate bad impression, especially when it’s included in proposals for work. Why should I hand over money to someone who doesn’t pay attention to detail and who is too lazy to use a spell-checker? Is this a signal that they’re going to be equally sloppy in their chosen field of work? Standards matter.

    Keep up the blogs: they’re really interesting.


  2. In my pre-translation life I spent 9 years selling (amongst other things) polystyrene for the construction industry. And I spent 9 years always hesitating over how to spell it!

  3. Great article. It is so hard not to get frustrated when words I use regularly still cause hesitation.. I also hate those times when you have written a simple word so many times that it begins to look odd and makes me question my spelling!

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