As a writer, and a lover of books, I have always been a natural proofreader. I think I get it from my Mum, and neither of us are capable at looking at a menu or a sign in a street without subconsciously noticing spelling mistakes.
However, seeing things like this has opened up this big conflict inside me. On one side, I hate to see spelling errors, but then the other side of me is saying “yes, but we can still understand what it being said, so does it matter?”
Throughout history, the spelling of words has altered to fit current needs with the eventual growth of standardised spellings. So, it seems fairly logical that spellings will continue evolving. However, I don’t think any linguist could have predicted that we would revert back to such an unstandardised state.
So, here’s the question: Are there times when spelling does or doesn’t matter?
Here are my thoughts:
When it does matter:
Example: Recently we have spotted a cafe that spelt its own company name wrong, and a leading department store that had misspelt the name of a food product on a sign that was no doubt used in every single one of their shops, right across the country!
Why this is bad: It looks incredibly unprofessional, especially on a business with a strong reputation and a large collection of shops nationally. Whilst a small business could be excused for have more things to worry about, and not enough time in the sense that the signs were probably written in a rush, larger companies have no excuse.
Larger companies can typically afford to hire more staff than a small one, so surely they can expand someone’s duties to proofreading?
Example: Then there is the case of a certain series of books, that you might have heard of – or even read – called “Twilight”, which have become almost as notorious for their poor spelling, as they have for their absolute ridiculousness – I mean, c’mon sparkling vampires, where the females grow make-up?!
Why this is bad: I’ve done work experience in the Editorial Department of a Publishers, in the past, and I know how important the role of the Editor is. Most importantly, I know how important the role of the proofreader is, so the idea that a proofreader has missed these mistakes, not only once, but every single time that the books have been reprinted, is just astounding.
I think that if the mistakes were evident in the first prints, that would be acceptable, because sure mistakes are missed, especially when Editors might be a little less lenient on books that they are not sure will sell that well. However, surely reviews etc have highlighted the mistakes, so a big publishing house has no excuse but to correct them for further reprints, when they know that people are going to buy them!
When it doesn’t matter:
Example: Blogs and newspapers are rife with spelling and grammar errors, mainly because both are written at a past pace typically to a tight schedule. The problem really lies in the way that they are produced, because they are typed so quickly, meaning a slight flick of a finger towards the wrong key can alter spelling without even noticing.
Why is doesn’t matter: Blogs are typically a personal affair, as a single person shares their thoughts and opinions on something that they are passionate about. Most of the time, these people are writing for themselves, around their full-time jobs, so they don’t have the time to fret about mistakes. Plus, it isn’t the spelling or the grammar, but more what is actually being said that matters.
When it comes to newspapers, we’ve all heard the phrase “tomorrow’s chip paper” haven’t we? I personally don’t see the point of moaning about a spelling mistake in something that will be forgotten by the next day. Unlike magazines, who have longer to produce copy, a newspaper might only have an hour – or even less – to produce a crucial story, so spelling is again second best to the actual content.
Example: Social media and this need to share practically everything has led to a rise in spelling errors, either because people are attempting to shorten what they have to say, or because they are having to write things that in the past they would have predominantly used in spoken communication.
For me, this last point sparks the biggest problem for a lot of people, especially on Facebook. As they are used to speaking, more than writing, many tend to type as they speak, which has led to a rise in the rise of the word “of”, when the correct word is actually “have”.
Why this doesn’t matter: Despite often having to get out a translator to figure out what some people are saying, it is usually possible. And surely that was all the person was ever intending to do right? Share a thought or an opinion.
Spelling matters when you are a company selling a product. Spelling does not matter when what you have to say far overpowers the spelling of it