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Does Spelling Count in Techno-Boulder?

Even in our high-tech Boulder Valley, spelling counts. While “auto-correct” is a powerful tool, it is only that. It is one tool. It is not a complete solution. While much of what we write is done on a computer, much is still written by hand. Two age-old questions that are still relevant for students, which includes ALL of us, spelling counts, and neatness counts. I don’t care what teachers might say about them not counting, that is untrue. Neatness ALWAYS counts, and spelling ALWAYS counts! As an aside, knowing how to spell words we are using in our writing increases our confidence, thereby improving our writing’s flow and quality.

Just as you cannot make a second first impression, misspellings  and sloppiness still count. Having been a terrible speller in the past, I speak from experience. For decades I have worked on improving my spelling, and have been met with great success. It is satisfying!

Whether it is a job application or a sales proposal or a work of fiction, a reader is, regardless of intentions, first struck by the appearance of the page. Neatness counts. For me, that means slowing down when I write. I have learned that the more I struggle with spelling a word, the sloppier my writing gets. I think I am trying to hide the possible misspelled word by writing without visual clarity. Did I write “ie” or “ei?” If I rush over it, it can be hard to tell which I actually wrote. I do this I think to hide my lack of confidence in my spelling.

Even computers have shortcomings in the world of spelling. For example, AI cannot spell. It will tell me “I’ve done what you asked, and spelled “red” with one “r,” I’ll see the picture with TWO “r”s anyway. No auto-spell correct in an AI-generated picture! Not even a squiggly line! (I still can’t believe that one). “Squiggly? Really?”

Spelling also provides benefits on a number of levels. First, it is good brain exercise. Second when a word is spelled correctly it is often easier to understand the meaning of the word. Much of our English language shares common roots, and shares common spellings. My wife and I will test each other each time we run across an interesting word for spelling.

Two of my favorites for spelling acuity are (spoiler ahead) “cornucopia” and “verbiage.” Google is the tie breaker. Type a word that is even close to what you are trying to spell and Google will likely ask if you really meant another word, and that other word is often the word you were trying to spell to begin with.

Some words are challenging to spell because they are unusual, do not follow the normal “rules, and are therefore not used often. Others are so often mispronounced that they become difficult to spell. “Cornucopia” and “verbiage” are great examples of both.

But with auto-correct, is spelling still relevant? You bet it is! The most obvious reason is that a word might be spelled correctly but might be the wrong word entirely. Just as AI generated writing must be proofed, spelling cannot be taken for granted. I know when I write, and I write a lot, I am into a flow. I write as if I’m speaking and then proof it to make the changes so that it reads well. And more importantly, I want to be certain that the writing says what I want to be saying. A substitution of words can change meaning entirely. It is hard to apologize for calling someone an “ass” when you meant to say they are an “ace.” No red line under either.

Additionally, there are many words that are spelled differently, sound the same, and make the writer look under-educated if they choose the wrong option. The easiest example of this, and words commonly interchanged and misused, arguably misspelled, are “their,” “they’re,” and “there.” While all pass the spelling test, the choice of the wrong one, missed in proofing or not proofed, give the appearance of ignorance. Generally none of us want that. In Boulder, intelligence is prized! We have a population with demographics that support this thinking. While this is technically perhaps not a spelling issue, I respectfully suggest that it is a writing challenge that falls into the same general category.

There is satisfaction in typing a difficult word correctly, and in NOT seeing that annoying red line appear under a misspelled word. Finally, the appearance of the little red “misspelled” word underlining interferes with the flow of the writing. It is difficult to write coherently with constant interruptions. So either you risk misspellings, or tolerate interruptions. Some of us enjoy not seeing the red line under a word. The immediate pat on the back for spelling a tough one correctly is a reward in and of itself. In other words, and I really mean this, spelling is FUN!

In Boulder I am comfortable in saying that we value learning for the sake of learning, and value knowledge for the sake of knowledge. For some words, correct pronunciation is inexorably tied to correct spelling. “Verbiage” is a great example of that.

So far I have use the word meaning “spelling incorrectly” a total of six times. How many “s”s are in the word? Is it “mispelling” or “misspelling?”

While writing this I ran into the most fun spelling word in this blog. How do you spell the word that means “the wavy red line under a misspelled word.”?   I tried a number of times to spell the word correctly to get the wavy red line to go away. I failed. I ran out of spelling ideas and still failed. I turned to Google. “Squigly” just looks wrong, as does “sqwigly,” and everything else I tried. I think if I had not used Google to identify to word I was struggling with, I would never have gotten that one right, and would have settled for a less accurate word. I hate that.

The red-line word is downright nasty and obscene in its spelling. Try “Squiggly.” I kid you not.  And yes, I typed a “Q” and not a “G.” It is counter-intuitive, not listed in my mediocre spelling auto-correct, and is a perfectly useful word. I love the irony of having a word to describe the red line under misspelled words be a word that is not in the self-correcting dictionary. I think that’s funny. My friends think I’m easily amused. We’re both right. And speaking of “irony,” that word is not obvious in its spelling.

Finally, if we can spell a word, we are more likely to use it in conversation. When we speak, auto-correct is not helpful, so many words we otherwise “know” are not part of our normal conversational vocabulary. This can mean appearing less educated, or it can mean using a word that is not as good a word choice as the harder to spell word. Again, “verbiage” is a great example of a word with great utility, and often not used. When I paint a picture, do I really want to tie one hand behind my back, leave 25% of my paint tube colors at home, and limit myself to one brush? Probably not. But that is precisely what we do when we avoid using vocabulary otherwise at our fingertips.

Here’s a list of a few words that are useful and not obvious in their spelling. Of course we have “verbiage” and “cornucopia.” Add “misspelling,” “irony,” and “squiggly” to our list and we have five words without trying hard.

Lenny Lensworth Frieling

Shared Knowledge Is Power!

Leonard Frieling Pen Of Justice Legal Blogger
  • Senior Counsel Emeritus to the Boulder Law firm Dolan + Zimmerman LLP : (720)-610-0951
  • Former Judge
  • Photographer of the Year, AboutBoulder 2023
  • First Chair and Originator of the Colorado Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Committee, a National first.
  • Previous Chair, Boulder Criminal Defense Bar (8 years)
  • Twice chair Executive Counsel, Colorado Bar Association Criminal Law Section
  • NORML Distinguished Counsel Circle
  • Life Member, NORML Legal Committee
  • Life Member, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar
  • Board Member Emeritus, Colorado NORML
  • Chair, Colorado NORML, 7 years including during the successful effort to legalize recreational pot in Colorado
  • Media work, including episodes of Fox’s Power of Attorney, well in excess of many hundreds media interviews, appearances, articles, and podcasts, including co-hosting Time For Hemp for two years.
  • Board member, Author, and Editor for Criminal Law Articles for the Colorado Lawyer, primary publication of the Colorado Bar Assoc. 7 Years, in addition to having 2 Colorado Lawyer cover photos, and numerous articles for the Colorado Lawyer monthly publication.
  • LEAP Speaker, multi-published author, University lectures Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Denver University Law School, Univ. of New Mexico, Las Vegas NM, and many other schools at all levels.
  • http://www.Lfrieling.com
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