I’m sure Gutenberg is spinning in his grave. Johannes, that is, not unfunny comedic actor Steve with two ts. Old JG, inventor of the moveable type printing press, is probably rotating faster than PSR J1748-2446ad, the fastest-spinning pulsar known, with a period of 0.00139595482(6) seconds, or about 24 percent of the speed of light at 161,040,000 miles per hour.
My point in writing this droll bit of esoteric trivia is simply to illustrate that a rather involved statement can be translated into the written word sans typos given a modicum of attention to detail and care. Johannes G. is polishing the inside of his coffin because the art of accurate spelling which once was second nature to the average literate person has been largely abandoned in just the last couple of years.
I’m not just talking about text-speak. This screen caption appeared on the local TV news the other day accompanying a story on budget cuts: “BUS ROUTES SLAHSED.” Just this morning, CNN Newsroom’s headline crawl at the bottom of the TV screen noted, “…employers plan to higher the fewer workers this holiday season…” Here’s a recent Facebook post, verbatim:
“This sitch isn’t just NYS by any stretch of the truth. Staes ovebler employ so they can keep the votes goingthier way. And by all means someone must get killed before evan a stop sign will be erected. I can not understand how you could think for even a second that NY has a monopoly doing something smart only after all the stupid things have run their course. Voting the dum barstards in or out of office can’t happen. For every time one senceble vote is cast; there is two forced into place to nullify that one right vote. Sorry didn’t mean to carry on.”
Talk about dum barstards.
We don’t even have to get into grammar, continuity and punctuation, as the three go hand-in-glove with correct spelling. You either care enough to send the very best, or you’re a dum barstard.
I take small pride in being a stickler as defined in the wonderful, typo-free book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss (Gotham, 2004) about punctuation and ways simple errors can change meaning. (Her 2005 work, Talk to the Hand vents her spleen at rudeness, incivility and boorish behavior prevalent in society today.) As a stickler I appreciate when someone puts two words together in an interesting and literate way, but also abhor lazy writing. Misspelled words, truncated phrases, bad grammar, gibberish, poor punctuation and nonsense are hallmarks of the modern written word. I blame the internet.
Like everybody else, I also bang out the words when typing into a search engine without a second thought to spelling: “whatt is sped oflight?” yields “Showing results for what is speed of light?” All the incorrectly spelled words are magically corrected by the search engine because they don’t want you to be frustrated in your search by your own ignorance. Frustrated consumers don’t have time to scan ads and superfluous content if they are attempting to find the speed of light at less than light speed due to dead-end search results.
Why don’t “smart” phones, social media sites, email, advertising, and other forms of written communication have this miraculous feature and save everyone a lot of unrealized embarrassment? Problem is, because the problem is ubiquitous, nobody calls anybody else out when they make egregious errors in writing. It’s the elephant in the room that just keeps smashing into the furniture and crapping all over everything.
Another great read is The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson (Crown Publishing Group, 2010) chronicling a cross-country crusade to write the wrongs of modern word usage. Equipped with writing utensils of every stripe and medium, these two latter-day linguists hunt down and (with permission) correct myriad malapropisms and misprints at every turn of their journey on a circuit of the United States (or “Staes” as noted earlier…) Men after my own heart, I’m afraid we are just voices crying in the wilderness.
I’m guessing if every one who emails or posts (and who doesn’t?) would only take a moment or two to click on “review,” “spell check” and “proofread writing” periodically during composition or when completing a missive, 90 percent of offending verbiage would evaporate into a black hole in cyberspace. As I write this, misspellings are consistently called out by a red squiggly line underlining each one. I mean, it’s obvious. No one, not even we sticklers, is mistake-free. What we need is a bit more self-awareness and concern for the decline of our language to take responsibility to clean up our own act when it comes to good writing and writing well.
Read the dictionary for fun. Buy a thesaurus (no, it’s not a kind of dinosaur…) Use spell checker. Reread your writing to spot obvious flaws easily corrected. Pride yourself in your written communication skills. You might not see the difference, but everyone else does.
By the way, don’t rely 100 percent on your spell checker to get it right vis-a-vis correcting spelling errors. As you know, “vis-a-vis” is spelled thusly. Here’s what my spell checker suggested as the correct spelling(s): bis-a-vis, via-a-vis, vi-a-vis, vs-a-vis and, of course, is-a-vis.
Happy hunting and pecking.