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Why cant they spel rite anymor?

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


Why cant they spel rite anymor?
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1988, The Syracuse Newspapers

A new kind of illiteracy is sweeping the country.

To give it a proper name, it's the illiteracy of homonyms-words that sound the same as other words but are spelled differently. Some say it's caused by the proliferation of spelling checkers used on computers, but that's not the full story.

You see, most spelling checkers are abysmally dumb. They don't know the difference between "bear" and "bare," or "do" and "dew." All that most spelling checkers know is that "do" is spelled just as correctly as "dew" is.

And that's where the disaster comes in.

Combine a bad speller (human variety) with a bad software program that can't distinguish between the appropriate word and the one that is just plain ludicrous, and you have the seeds of the new illiteracy.

A poem posted on the Internet shows what I mean. Here it is:

Spellbound
by Pennye Harper

I have a spelling checker;
It came with my PC.
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I've run this poem threw it;
I'm sure your pleased too no.
It's letter-perfect in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

I've brought this problem up with other writers, and many of them say the current reliance on spelling checkers has made most of us lazy. Instead of looking up (and learning) a word we don't know how to spell, we just keep typing away, confident that the spelling checker will catch our mistakes.

This is probably true. But I look at it another way. Spelling is supposed to be taught in school long before students do much writing on PCs, so I don't think spelling checkers are to blame if we can't spell; I think these brainless software programs are simply showing how poorly we were taught at an early age.

I say "we" so that you don't get the impression that I am just talking about kids. Adults have this homonymic affliction, too.

The other day, a distinguished publisher of how-to books sent me a review copy of a book by a respected author. In the back of the book, he explained how he had done most of the work on the book himself-even producing the book's pages, ready for the publisher's press, on his own desktop-publishing software and laser printer.

I hadn't read past Page 11 when I saw his first gaffe.

"Press the brake key," the book said.

There were other mistakes just like that throughout the book.

I had better things to do than wade through that sort of illiteracy, so I put on the breaks and went back to my keybored. The book went into the trash.


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