This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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16 June 2014

Who cares about spelling?

One of our friends sent us that email about the incredible brain. You know the one. It shows how we can read text even if the middle letters in the words are jumbled; even if they’re replaced by other symbols.

The email concluded that spelling doesn’t matter. I disagree with that conclusion for a couple of reasons. The most important point is that a careless writer assumes they can ignore people who can’t unjumble their letters to get their meaning (those who are not skilled readers). That’s not the point I want to make today, though.

My point has to do with the impression you make when you ignore spelling – or, for that matter, grammar or punctuation.

Think about it by analogy. You may think that wearing your underpants outside your trousers shows that you’re a superhero. You can do that. There is no law that stops you. You will still achieve the fundamental purpose of clothes; you’ll not offend public modesty, and you’ll stay warm. But people will make up their own mind about the message you send.

Similarly, you may think that ignoring the established patterns of English shows that you’re future-focused and free thinking. There is no law to stop you. Your readers may even understand what you’ve written. But people will make up their own minds about the message your carelessness sends.

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