August 6, 2013
With texting shorthand like “c u soon” splattered across the nation’s smartphone screens, proper spelling is in jeopardy, USA Today reports. A schism both orthographic and generational was illustrated over the weekend when a Connecticut eighth-grader complained he was “cheated” out of victory on the game show Jeopardy! for misspelling “emancipation” in answer to a question about the 13th Amendment. In an age of texting acronyms and computers suggesting spellings, is a spelling mistake less important than it used to be?
“Spelling absolutely counts,” says Paige Kimble, executive director of Scripps National Spelling Bee and its 1981 champion. Good spelling “is a tremendous reflection on an individual’s overall knowledge and attention to detail. We love that Jeopardy! took a stand.” Says Mignon Fogarty, an author of books on grammar and spelling, “We still evaluate people based on how we present ourselves in writing.”
But typographical errors occur in all realms of society, even among elite academics. On Monday, a letter from the University of Virginia offering a football scholarship was passed around the Internet for printing “formerly” instead of “formally”— and in the first paragraph. In a February email, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly misspelled “consistent,” “personnel” and “memorandum.” While maintaining that spelling still matters, Kimble concedes that “Language evolves over time, and I have to believe that our language is evolving now just in the ways it did hundreds of years ago.” — Greg Beaubien