write . . . writ . . . rite

Write . . . writ . . . rite

First of all, thanks to Trigeminaltimes.com for bringing this topic up. I have a short response to butterblog10 on my About me . . . page, but I also thought this a worthy topic for notes on writing, as well.

The common fallacy is that all writers are good spellers. Writers are not born innately knowing how to spell, they learn to spell by practicing their craft and reading. A lot of writers have difficulty spelling, and if you don’t believe it, go find a biography of a writer and read their unedited correspondence, especially hand-written letters.

[No! Really, people used to hand write letters and mail them!]

While these authors hit the mark eighty-five percent of the time, they made mistakes, too. So we just have to accept that spelling is every writer’s bane. The good news is the more you write, the better you will learn to spell.

I’ve found that spell check and other word processing “helpers” often make me a lazy and careless speller. This is not meant to degenerate into a mindless tirade on how the Great Cyber-Demon is sucking our brains out via our monitors, BUT . . .

When I’m typing in Word and that ugly red line squiggles beneath my word, like everyone else on the planet, I hit spell check as naturally as I breathe. However, when I click the button to correct a word, I can’t easily follow the changes with my eye, because the program bops off to the next error.

What I’ve started doing is this: when spell check picks up a misspelled word, I click beside the misspelled word, then manually correct it. This way, I’m conscious of my mistakes, and I reinforce my learning. The same thing with grammar check, I always double check the computer, because the word processing program isn’t always right.

The other mistake I made early on when switching from typewriter to computer (yeah, I’m THAT old) was in believing that I could leave behind my dictionary and thesaurus because of my word processing programs. WRONG! The thesaurus in Word will never, ever win out over my good, old fashioned Roget’s International. The amount of detail and indexing in the older Roget’s stands alone. I use a Webster’s New World College Dictionary to check the meanings of words I’m unfamiliar with and also to verify that the word my word processing program suggests is, in fact, the word I want to use. [How many times can you use "word" in a sentence?]

Then as a final, final, final stop-gap measure, I ask someone to proof my work for me, and they will often pick up on errors that I’ve looked at so many times, I’m blind to them.

When writing on any blog, I always cut and paste my work into Word for a quick check. When working on my novel, I read the chapters out loud, and oddly enough, I pick up a lot of errors that way, too.

So, how does one become a better speller? The same way we master anything else, rite . . . writ . . . write . . .

Copyright 2009 Teresa Frohock

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About T. Frohock

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2 Responses to write . . . writ . . . rite

  1. granthamtech says:

    Hi Teresa,

    When I was younger I felt confident enough to know the spelling of a word simply by looking at it and deciding whether or not it ‘looked’ right.

    Today I have to use built-in spell checkers, but only as an initial check, to pick up the schoolboy howlers, as we used to say. If I have any particular doubts about a word I’ll use an online dictionary although I have to say that sometimes I have found them surprisingly lacking.

    If I have a doubt about certain word pairings I’ll use Google to do a hit count on the variations – on the basis that popularity counts a least a little.

    Ultimately though you have to thoroughly proof read as well.

    Just my thoughts,

    Cheers,
    Stephen

    • Teresa says:

      Hi, Stephen, thanks for ringing in!

      I love “schoolboy howlers”; I’ve never heard the phrase before, but it certainly gives a clear picture.

      I’m so old, I used to type on a typewriter and my spelling was wonderful then, because if you flubbed a word, it sometimes meant retypying the whole page. What work!

      I’ve never tried using Google for online pairings, so I may try that and see what happens for me. Thanks for the tip!

      Using online dictionaries are what a lot of people are using nowaday, but you’ll pry my Roget’s from my cold, dead fingers . . .

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