An item ran in the Wall Street Journal this week, lamenting the fact that college students are sometimes misinformed regarding the spellings of certain words and phrases. A glaring example was a student’s reference to a “mister meaner,” instead of a misdemeanor. I’ve seen similar “creativity” on Twitter and Facebook posts.
When I was younger, it bothered me when I would see writing by intelligent people that confused words that sounded alike. Homonyms like “there, their and they’re” did not mystify me. I always got them right—why couldn’t others? I would generally attribute these mistakes to laziness.
As I became older and the majority of my writing switched from pen to keyboard, I was horrified to notice that I was occasionally making such errors. How could I be so careless that I would type, say, “hear” instead of “here?” Was it because I was into a groove and the words were flowing so fast from my brain to my fingers that I barely had time to think? Sometimes, yes.
Today, even when I am totally sober and fully conscious, it happens. I have been saved many times by spell check, but when the wrong word is spelled correctly and fits grammatically, spell check does not help.
This is why proofreading is so vital. It often occurs that I will note an error on the third or fourth read-through. When time permits, it’s good to reread something the next day, when your brain is fresh and you can observe your work a bit more objectively. Email a copy to a friend or family member and ask her or him to read your work and tell you of any mistakes.
You have probably noticed more and more misspellings and bad grammar in print, in online postings and on TV graphics in recent years. Could this be a result of creative spellings in text messages and emails? Or have personnel cutbacks in media caused less qualified individuals to be manning the keyboards? Whatever the cause, it is a disturbing trend.
One on hand, I try to be forgiving. I am not perfect. I make mistakes. But, on the other hand, major communications agencies (including media outlets, PR firms and marketing companies) should be held to high standards. If you want your work to be considered professional grade, proofread. Then, proofread again before posting or hitting “send.”