Thursday, August 11, 2016

How important is it to get spelling and grammar right? #143

Yesterday I wrote a post based on being careful about writing and to follow Bruce Kasanoff's advice about never sharing a first draft. One of the (many) things we should check for when we write ANYTHING is spelling and grammar. As an academic I read hundreds of essays/assignments/lab reports/projects/dissertations every year - at the end of each I have to assign a grade and provide feedback. I'm certain that "Please proofread your work before submitting" is one of the most common pieces of feedback that I give. It is sometimes alarming that students fail to spot obvious typos - even if there is one of those red squiggly lines underneath indicating a spelling error, they are simply ignored.

Image source: Pinterest.
For me the crime here is not that someone can't spell or does not have a command of basic grammar - no one is perfect and it easy to make a mistake. It is that students (or indeed colleagues at times!) don't bother to check or even run a spellchecker on their document. My attitude quite often if I see a blatant typo in the first few lines is "What else is wrong with this submission?". In my subjects, no marks are deducted for spelling and grammar errors - I am a Lecturer in Computing, not English Literature. I also acknowledge that many of my students come from backgrounds where English is not their first language.

But you can at least make an effort to improve the quality of writing and at least check spelling with a computer. I have heard that some companies when checking CVs for job applications immediately discard a CV when they spot a typo. You also can translate a word from your native language to English with the correct spelling easily with Google. There's really no excuse not to make the effort.

Grammar on the other hand is much harder to get right. Microsoft Word regularly puts green lines under my text to tell me that my English is not structured properly or violates a grammer rule. I have much more tolerance for poor grammar than poor spelling. One of my pet hates is when people misuse apostrophes - especially in Irish surnames. If you can't take the few microseconds of time it takes to check for an apostrophe in someone's name - the message is that you don't care enough to get a person's name right.

The effort you make to improve the quality of your writing, whether it is your CV, an essay, a blog post, or an email - says something about you. No one (apart from English Professors and Editors) expects perfect English all the time. Bruce Kasanoff says that "the right words have near-magical powers" - no doubt the magic wears off if the words are typos.

I've proofread this post several times to check for spelling and grammar errors. but did you spot my deliberate typo?

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