I remember getting off the school bus with my Peanuts backpack slung over my tiny first grade shoulders. Inside that backpack were 23 Valentine's Day cards. The night before, I had carefully written in my best handwriting, on each card, a message to my friends. Before the school bell rang, I took out my rubber-banded pile of cards and began placing them in the decorated shoeboxes that sat on our desks. Our teacher had said we could open our shoeboxes before Language Arts. We could barely contain ourselves, each of us waiting for that moment. Once she gave us permission, we tore into those boxes like kids on a sugar-eating binge. As I was sorting my cards into two piles, (I was detailed obsessed even then) my friend Brian walked up to my desk. He looked hurt. He threw something on my desk and snarled, "You spelled my name wrong." I was stunned. I couldn't even speak as I felt the hot flame of embarrassment rise in my cheeks. I looked at his card. And there it was in pink pen, my Dan Quayle moment. "To Brain. Happy Valentine's Day. Shana. " I apologized to him, but the look on his face was burned into my memory forever. My name is not that easy to spell so you'd think I'd be extra sensitive. So, here we are 30 odd years later and that singular moment is still with me.
I am pretty sure my love affair with spelling did not lead me into my career of Journalism. (a cancelled TV show and trying to survive on a retail salary in LA is what did it) However, it has made me better at my job. Paying attention to spelling can also help you. Surveys show employers perceive employees who submit work with errors as lazier than their counterparts and more inexperienced. They are less likely to be considered for raises or to move up the corporate ladder.
Nowadays, you would think spelling would really be a non-issue. After all, we have spell check on our computers, we have search engines at our disposal and plenty of dictionary sites on the internet. Yet, time and time again I see spelling errors everywhere from major newspapers to newscasts to television shows and even ad campaigns. I suppose you could blame texting where single letters replace entire words. (R u coming over?) Are we that lazy that typing those four extra letters will exhaust us? As you can imagine, twitter has brought my agita to an almost unbearable level as I try to decide what grammar or spelling rule I will sacrifice in the name of 140 characters. (I am happy to say that 99% of the time I break neither, instead choosing to spend several minutes crafting a tweet.)
So, why harp on spelling or rather misspellings? There are more pressing issues in the world that need our attention; world hunger, our water supply, can Don Draper find happiness in Los Angeles. Consider this, when you spell something incorrectly in an email to your mom or friend, they usually forgive you and they never bring it up. But, what about your boss? What about a client? Trust me, they notice and they are not impressed. You're sending a lot more than your original message when you send an email with a spelling error. A recent survey by a job finder website asked executives for their top ten resume pet peeves and at number one: misspellings. In fact, one executive recalled a resume from what seemed to be a great candidate for a well paying job, until he took a closer look. In the section on Education, instead of majoring in Public Relations, this candidate left out the "L" in Public and well, you get it. Needless to say, he wouldn't even interview her.
In the journalism world, spelling errors can bankrupt your credibility. Spell a suspect's name incorrectly and you've just implicated the wrong person in a crime. I know a teacher at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism who takes a letter grade off for spelling errors. The students complain and say she's being too hard on them. After all, they say, "no one sees our stories but you." While that may be true, eventually one day you will be in the "real" world and you will be judged by "real" people who depend on you to be accurate.
So, bookmark that spelling site, place the dictionary on your desk, find a friend that spells well. That old school adage is true, "Spelling Counts".
Shana Fischer is the co-owner of Brilliant Sky Media, LLC. Shana is an award-winning producer with 20 years experience. She has worked in television news and commercial production. She has helped to create local and national television programs. Shana is a graduate of the University of Arizona. Follow on twitter @BrillSkyMedia
Brilliant Sky Media, LLC is a full-service video production company in Phoenix, Arizona that specializes in creating videos and commercials for businesses, corporations and non-profits. They have worked with ABC News, Cox Communications, Lifetime Television and local businesses and non-profits.