Friday, July 17, 2009

Selnplig is irlvnelet

My last incarnation in journalism was as a typesetter and proofreader for The Delaware Wave. As such I spent a lot of time looking for typos and misspelled words. No publication is ever free of errors so I guess the job is rather futile, but I have always been convinced that spelling and grammatical errors are bad things and should be avoided.

I was incensed, a couple of years ago, when the latest W.E.B. Griffin book came out and I was one of the first to read it, only to find that it was replete with errors of every kind. There were even factual errors of the type Griffin never makes (a Marine captain was identified throughout the first two chapters as a corporal -- inexcusable). The very worst kinds of errors are errors in fact and this was a big time error in fact.

So upset was I with the unprofessional presentation of this ninth in his series of books about Marines, that I wrote a review for suggesting that he fire his publisher.

Now comes something that has shaken my entire belief system. A computer newsletter called Knowledge News recently included this letter from Rebecca J. Favro.

Daer Hguh,
Tihs is pertty inrettesnig! Aoccdrnig to rseearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are. The olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers are in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses, and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

George Orwell, in his book 1984, shook my belief system with his explanation of newspeak -- his theory that all unnecessary words will eventually be eliminated so that an entire sentence can be written in one word. Sort of like the German language to the max.

My one course in linguistics at Millersville State College started me to wonder about the future of spelling. But to now find out that spelling is truly irrelevant is a blow to my professional psyche.

I, oddly, find myself sort of without words -- spelled correctly or not.

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