word craft


Miss Spelling

If you are a poor speller, does that mean that you are a poor writer? F. Scott Fitzger­ald was a famous­ly poor speller. Does that make spelling unim­por­tant? It is a ques­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Take this sen­tence: I went walk­ing with the dog. Using the same let­ters you could write, I went walk­ing with the god. Quite a dif­fer­ence. In my expe­ri­ence, there are few very good spellers, includ­ing me. (An agent of mine told me that one year I won the Pub­lish­ers’ Fitzger­ald Poor Spellers Award.) There are so many poor spellers, in part, because Eng­lish is a huge mix of dif­fer­ent lan­guages. The Oxford Dic­tio­nary folks sug­gest that there are a quar­ter of a mil­lion dis­tinct Eng­lish words! I doubt any­one can spell them all cor­rect­ly. For that mat­ter, I doubt any­one knows them all. Long live the Oxford Unabridged! With so many Eng­lish words, the lan­guage lends itself to puns (a form of mis­spelling), which I adore. A skunk walks into a court­room. The judge cries out, “Odor in the court!” Did I tell a stinky joke or mis­spell some­thing? Depends on what I was try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate. Two of my books, The End of the Begin­ning, and A Begin­ning, a Mud­dle and an End, are full of such jokes. Some have sug­gest­ed these books are philo­soph­i­cal. Oth­ers that they are just sil­ly. Take your pick. Either way, they are spelled cor­rect­ly. I hope.

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