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Pause for a spell...

In the course of designing websites for a living, it is truly frightening how often I come across spelling errors in all manner of contexts.

Adam D 28 September 2010


In the course of designing websites for a living, it is truly frightening how often I come across spelling errors in all manner of contexts. Email is a particular bug-bear of mine, however it is, on occasion, equally disheartening to see the content within so many existing websites (and the planned content for new ones) lose its credibility because the Author who penned it had a limited propensity for, or interest in, linguistics.

These range from very simple, presumably unintended errors (typo’s) to ridiculously obvious ones (I came across a recent example that included the words ‘calender’ and ‘festivel’ repeatedly on different pages throughout a clients existing site).

Journalist for Melbourne newspaper The Age, Christopher Bantick, said in a 2003 article he wrote on the subject of poor spelling that “the importance of correct spelling as an indicator of clear communication has been reduced through our increasing dependence on technology.” Seven years later, in 2010, this couldn’t be more true.

Along with the core forms of media and communication we have come to know, love and develop an almost unprecedented reliance on, such as television and the internet, the enormous growth in the peripheral digital landscape, incorporating social media, blogging, online communication tools (MSN, Skype, Yammer…the list goes on) and mobile content / application development, to name a few, demands we pay even more attention to the way we assemble and articulate words and sentences.

To further encourage our apathy on the subject, we also have to cope with a world which is being increasingly flooded with an elaborate and seductive spectrum of visual data – one in which images, rather than words, are rapidly gaining supremacy.

It is therefore those individuals, businesses, enterprises and organisations that make the paying of attention to these semantic details a critical component of the success of their daily operations, a big step ahead of those that don’t.

Looking at the web in isolation, correct spelling is also imperative for SEO-motivated reasons, if none other. You want users to find you. And you want them to find you using the correct terminology. If you do drawings for a living then you may need to expand on, and further clarify that when it comes to defining search terms. A quick search on dictionary.com should explain why (as of September, 2010 there are approximately 60 definitions of the term ‘draw’).

In summing up, there are some basic steps you can take to ensure you minimise your chances of eternal intellectual humiliation by spelling mistake. These include:

1. If a word doesn’t look right, chances are it probably isn’t. Use the spell checker (and even dare to click the ‘change or ‘change-all’ button) in whatever application you are using to create content.

2. If unsure, or for particularly tricky words and concepts, invest in a good dictionary. These are worth their weight in gold and make an attractive addition to any desk.

3. If you suffer from extremely low spell-esteem, hire a proof-reader / copywriter / copyeditor. Make sure they are, however, appropriately qualified, professional and experienced. Ask to see samples of their work. Your mate Jim from school who was good at English may not be the most suitable person to write your website content.

I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject but I have found the above tips to come in handy on numerous occasions. I hope you will too. As Descartes was overheard saying at drinks with friends one night, ‘I think, therefore, I spell correctly.’

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