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16 October 2019 -
How important is spelling these days?
As a dyslexic and someone who spends a lot of time writing for a living this is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Has the prevalence of spell check, abbreviations and awareness of disabilities changed the way we see spelling in 2019?
I think it is important to firstly start off by dispelling the myths that giving someone with dyslexia spell check will eliminate their spelling mistakes, or even simply saying that “if they tried harder and checked their work more they can do this themselves”. As someone with dyslexia if you show me the word request spelt in five different ways and told me to find the one spelt correctly I could not do it. This is where the problem with spell check lies. Spell check relies on the user being able to pick the correct word from a list of suggestions, something that most people with the disability can’t do. It constantly surprises me how many people still think that this is just a person being lazy or not bothering to check.
Another interesting aspect to take into account is the drive towards brands and companies being authentic. Is it authentic for a brand to have any content they write checked by three to five different people for any mistakes before it is posted? Or would their customers feel more connected to a brand that isn't perfect, as no one truly is? As a marketer, I think there is a really exciting opportunity for brands to become more human and connect with real people. I think the odd spelling mistake is part of this. It is so hard to stick out from the crowd these days so why not make your brand’s identity "human and not perfect".
Of course, there are companies who I believe will always want and need perfect spelling and grammar. Solicitors, for example, need to be careful to ensure that the correct word is used, an incorrect one could drastically change the meaning of a sentence and therefore change the legal standing. In businesses like this, I see no problem in the proofreading of copy and would, in fact, recommend a three-person check system.
How far do we take the idea of perfect spelling? For me, I have to take a view on when it is appropriate and necessary to get someone to proofread things I have written. It is not practical, cost-effective or indeed authentic for me to get every email I write proofread. It is however in the society we live in necessary for me to get every piece of copy I write on a client’s behalf proofread. I think this is a healthy balance for me, as it ensures that no client will have incorrect spelling in their copy but also allows people I email to connect to the real me.
Does education need to change? Ultimately yes, I do believe it does. We are meant to be a country that accepts people’s disabilities and does not judge them for these. Unfortunately, when it comes to learning disabilities I believe there is still a long way to go. I have someone that I email on a weekly basis regarding some voluntary work I do and her attitude to my dyslexia is still something that I need to fix. People do not always realise how hurtful and demeaning this is. We need to educate people that it is not a choice and that it is ok not to be perfect. As a business owner, I believe this is something we should take an active role in. We should be sharing stories of our team who are amazing at their job, successful and yes cannot spell. If businesses with a suitable brand identity engaged with this, think of the amazing impact we could have on the mental health of young people. There may well be a great business benefit of getting customers to feel more connected to our business and fond of the brand values.
Ultimately I think perfect spelling will always have a place for certain businesses and certain industries. There is however a massively exciting opportunity for businesses and professionals to take an active role in celebrating difference and the idea that no one is perfect. I really do believe that businesses that can do this effectively will see their customer base grow and brand loyalty skyrocket.