Use words wisely.

Words cast spells.

That’s why it’s called spelling!

Words are carriers of magical energy.

— from Celtic Moon Arrow and Spirit Art (Facebook post)

This is a bit of a random quote — and I could go a number of ways with this, but the first thing that jumped to mind when I read it was one of my biggest pet peeves (remember, I have many!)


This pet peeve encompasses the deliberate misspelling of words, the teaching of spelling and the indifference some people seem to have to (correct) spelling.

Deliberate misspelling has been around for years; so long that there is actually a name for it — sensational spelling. This is spelling that is altered for effect and impact (i.e. to create sensation); not spelling that is sensational because it is good quality.

Sensational spelling is most commonly used for advertising (think Froot Loops, Weet-bix or Playskool), in gaming or entertainment culture (Mortal Kombat, Coz I Luv You by Slade or I Would Die 4 U by Prince) and on the internet (flickrTumblr).

I never really gave this any thought until I became a teacher and constantly came across children who not only used froot, luv, u and various other ‘sensational’ spellings, but also argued with me when I tried to correct them.

That’s how it’s written on the box, it must be right.’

Advertising and popular media have a LOT to answer for.

It is amazing how much sensational spelling is around us when we consciously look for it. It is everywhere. And what gets me is that teachers are constantly on trial for the inability of children to spell. Surely the blame should fall elsewhere as well … or is it also our fault that advertising gurus and marketers clearly can’t spell?

Mind you, as a teacher, I am yet to find a spelling program that works. As a primary school student, spelling was learned by rote memorisation of word lists; often we didn’t even know how to use the word in a sentence. These days BEE Spelling is the thing. This is a program adapted (poorly in my opinion) from the American Words Their Way program which emphasises spelling patterns, word meanings and word use.

Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Now, I’m not advocating rote memorisation … BUT, I can spell.

Then again, a friend of mine, who I went through school with and who had the same ‘spelling education’ as me, can’t spell.

It really depends on the child. I think the biggest issue with the teaching of spelling is that we only look at one way. Some people respond really well to rote memorisation, others need to analyse and understand the patterns and rules.

Spelling, like everything else we do (and like clothing — I’ve never understood that), is not one-size-fits-all.

Finally, there are the people who don’t give a crap about spelling. They just write stuff down, and are over-reliant on a spell-check fixing everything up.

Newsflash — a spellchecker does NOT pick up every error.

These people are not to be confused with the people who know and admit they have a problem with spelling. My Year 11 and 12 Psychology teacher was, in his words, the worst speller in the world. These were the days when teachers would write reams of information on the blackboard and the ‘lesson’ consisted of coming in and copying everything from the board into your notebook. We had the added challenge of fixing the spelling as we copied. But — nobody cared because our teacher had been open from the beginning about his lack of spelling ability; and he was a damn good psychology teacher.

Spelling words incorrectly, and not taking the time to proofread and fix errors is, in my opinion, unprofessional. I would go as far to say that I deliberately avoid businesses when I detect multiple spelling errors. Clearly they don’t care about the simple things — so what is their care factor about their product quality or customer service? And, what message are they sending to young people? We don’t care, so neither should you? I would be willing to bet, though, these same businesses would discard a job application with multiple spelling errors.

Words are so very powerful. But, a misspelt word can be equally as powerful — in the wrong way. It may distort your intended meaning, or create an unfavourable impression of you.

Everything in balance though. As a teacher, one of the worst things to happen is to focus so much on correct spelling that it impacts the quantity and quality of a child’s writing. Some children spend so much time focusing on getting their spelling correct that they don’t have the opportunity to get all their thoughts down, or they limit what they write only to words they know they can spell.

Spelling, reading, writing — they are all interconnected. They are all magical. They should all be considered important.

P.S. Now that I have had my rant about poor spelling, I am slightly scared someone will find an error in my writing. I would be mortified. If you find one, please let me know so I can fix it.


4 thoughts on “spelling

  1. Spelling!! How it has been raped, manhandled and made ‘funky’ in our technological world!!! I agree entirely that educators have made wrong choices in deciding what is the best method to produce competent spellers!! One size certainly doesn’t fit all.
    When I enter discussions about ‘spelling’ I constantly refer to one of my much loved quotes:
    Spelling and Writing are intrinsically married. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there have been many breakups in this marriage due mainly to lack of understanding or special bonding between each party coupled with the poor facility or disregard of the writer to employ correct spelling to impart different messages. As you pointed out, marketing media has crucified our language to make it acceptable to a society constantly looking for ‘the quick fix’. For me, this is very sad, tragic!! Spelling is very complex and requires skilled teaching.
    As educators we should facilitate the gaining of correct spelling standards by making sure that we open as many doors as possible for students to walk through so that spelling becomes a meaningful and fundamental conduit in producing writing for various intended audiences. We need to enable students to thoroughly explore language and ‘massage’ and ‘proofread’ their writing so that they gain spelling proficiency.
    ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.’ For me, this is so true!!!!


    1. I thought this one would fire you up Janet. I was channelling you the whole time I was writing it … but I couldn’t remember your ‘spelling serves writing’ quote otherwise I would have used it.


  2. I learnt spelling by rote but am a terrible Speller. My daughter Louise learnt by very strict phonetic spelling method which she loved. It suited her logical brain and she loved listing all the different ways to pronounce ‘tough’.unfortunately it failed utterly in actually teaching her to spell. She is a passionate and very proficient writer but her spelling is worse than mine. Megan started with phonetics but then seemed to move to a sort of hands off, work it out for yourself method. She is an excellent speller, who at 10 could spell almost any word given to her but found it impossible to construct a meaningful sentence with almost any of them. I draw no conclusions from this except that as Kellie summarised a ‘one size fits all’ rarely works.

    Liked by 1 person

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