Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spelling Poorly at the Donut Shoppe

I got an email from my new pal at the radio station. In it he expressed regret that in his previous message he spelled the word "campaign" wrong, leaving out the letter G. "What with you being a writer and editor you should have said something!" he wrote.

My reply was something like, "Well, I think it's more accurate to the feeling to leave out the G--then it's cam-pain, emphasis on 'pain.'"

Still, where would we all be as writers if we took it upon ourselves to correct misspellings in everyday communication? Emails are lax, sure, but text messages would just be a nonstop joke.

I remember growing up we drove to Southern California to see my grandmother and near her house was a place called the "Donut Shoppe." Ugh! Every SINGLE time we passed it, I longed for my eyes to be able to shoot forth lasers to add missing letters and subtract the superfluous ones. WHY? WHY? It made my skin crawl. (Still kind of does, apparently.)

Am I alone here?

And yet, these are different times. Much as I would LOVE to be the instigator of a Renaissance of Good Spelling, I doubt that idea would fly much farther than a cement balloon. Can you imagine trying to police good spelling in ongoing conversations between teenagers, many of which consist of a single letter? MIOK?

What. Ever.

But as a writer, I do feel like I have a responsibility to the language, the purity of the written word, to be a bastion of conservation of formal communication. Sure, my books aren't exactly the height of formality, but the sentence structure in them can aspire to avoid fragments (unlike the preceding paragraph) and to have varying and complex structures, to not begin with conjunctions (uh, unlike this very paragraph and the one two above this), and to present the accurate spelling and usage of words to the best of my ability.

Part of this stems, I believe, from the desire to create a haven for those who feel like I do--that grammar matters, that punctuation counts, that clear and complete communication is possible and can be learned. If no examples of good writing exist for our upcoming generations to experience, I almost shudder to think of the disintegration English (and interpersonal expression) will suffer in the coming decades.

A few days ago I was talking with a friend who had just finished reading one of the classics. It might have been The Count of Monte Cristo (of course I can't remember now that I want to remember). She loved the story, but her main response went like this: "We may think we're so smart and advanced these days, but we have nothing on them! The people back then [I think she meant writers in the 18th & 19th Centuries] had such a complete way of expressing themselves. It was elegant and refined and educated. We're just a bunch of dummies by comparison!" Is my friend right?

Donut, anyone?

(My personal favorite is the Hostess powdered sugar doughnut with the raspberry gel filling. Mmm. I wish I had one right now!)


  1. Well. . . I really enjoyed your blog. I have been meaning to visit for some time now. Of course, I often am tempted to put little lessons of the day on my Facebook page. Ex. You and are together=You're, not Your. Then I would ponder my life as a friendless loser, and I need all the friends I can get. If you edit this, I will have to pound you.

  2. Ha ha! Abbreviations are my gripe! Seems like everyone has their own little code language that I'm not privy to.

  3. No kidding, Sherral. Since I don't text, I'm completely lost when it comes to the codes!

    Aimee, I recently saw a facebook post where a girl I know corrected the spelling of a guy who had commented on her post. I think she was kind of flirting with him, but I bet that went over like a cement balloon, too!

  4. I didn't know you had a blog!! I love it! Now you made me want to have doughnut!!!


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