Thursday, February 26, 2009


The other day, I told you how much I enjoyed math. Today, I want to share my thoughts on spelling and grammar.

I am a lousy speller. Always have been. I can read and comprehend what I am reading quite well, but when it comes down to actually spelling the words on my own? Well, let's just say that I LOVE spell check. I have a couple of good dictionaries and a thesaurus that I can use if I get really stuck. I don't know about you but it always annoyed the heck out of me when I'd ask someone how to spell a word and they'd say "Look it up in the dictionary!" Well how do you look up a word that you don't know how to spell?

Learning my ABC's was easy. So were the basic words we learned in the first few years of school. It was when they started teaching us all the rules that go with spelling and sentence structure that I started getting a headache. It really didn't help matters that my penmanship was rather pathetic due in large part to my poor vision. "Needs to work on penmanship" was on all my report cards. The teachers knew I understood the concepts and could converse well. It was my visual limitations that were causing most of the problems and they made allowances for it. Even with that, I still struggled to express myself on paper.

English is an extremely difficult language to learn to spell, write and speak. So many words have their own unique rules. You are taught the basics and then told that there are a whole bunch of exceptions.

More than one mouse is mice, but more than one house isn't hice it is houses. Fish is both singular and plural.

Rain, rein and reign are all pronounces the same way but have different meanings. How about words like "live" that are pronounced either with a long "i" or a short "i" to make two completely different meanings. Words like once sound like they should start with "w" not an "o". Let's not forget the words with silent letters like psychic or where the "ph" sounds like an "f" as in pharmacy or phonics.

Then there is the "i" before "e" except after "c" rule. It is more or less a good rule, except for words such as; beige, eight, either, feisty, freight, keister, leisure, neighbour, neither, rein, reign, sleigh, surveillance, veil, vein, weigh and many others.

Or how about that lovely British way of spelling things with a "ou". Canada sure picked up on that one with words like colour, favour, flavour, humour and honour. Most English versions of Spell Check will tell you these are spelled wrong since they are developed in the USA and they dropped the "u" from such words centuries ago.

Confused? Your darn right it's confusing! When I am doing any type of writing, I often have to stop and think of the way to spell even simple words. Is there one "m" or two in memory? Spell check will tell me, but I can never remember.

Anyone who has ever gotten a hand written note from me, knows my spelling is a bit off, but it isn't horrible. My friends do like to razz me about my spelling. A few months ago, I was talking to a friend who was telling me about a trip to a family members cabin. After I left, I couldn't for the life of me remember the pronunciation so there was no way I could figure out the spelling to look it up on a map! My friend just laughed at me when I asked them again where they were going. They even wrote down how to spell it for me. I remember how to pronounce it now, and I think I still have the spelling somewhere....

Before I had the computer, I used to write all my correspondence out longhand then grab a dictionary and check what I thought might be spelled wrong. Then I would rewrite the whole thing more legibly and hopefully with the words spelled correctly or at least close enough that the person on the other end would know what I was trying to say.

I was never great at grammar either. I generally knew where to put quotes, commas, periods and question marks. I know - more or less - how to use colons and semi colons, but don't ask me to dissect the parts of the sentence and tell you all the verbs, adverbs, adjectives and so on. I'll only get it half right and end up being more confused.

My mom and I did a lot of writing in the 1980's with family histories of both of my parents families and the history of a small local school district. All three books were done on letter sized paper and had about 120-150 pages/book. We did the vast majority of the work ourselves. I did all the typing for two of them (we hired a typist for the third one). There was a white out function on the typewriter and we went through a number of bottles of liquid paper. Luckily mom's spelling is much better than mine, but several spelling errors still made it into the final editions. One of our "kind" relatives was gracious enough to point out that in several spots, we had spelled February as Febuary. After those books were done, I swore I'd never write again!

So given all that, I guess it is a little ironic that I am now writing a blog. My spelling, penmanship and grammar are still pretty bad, but I do enjoy the creative process and finding ways to express myself. It does take me a little longer than the average person to put my thoughts down, but it is very gratifying to see the final copy and know that I have actually managed to put my thoughts down in a manner that others will actually be able to understand what I am trying to say.

Just do me a favour and don't check the spelling and grammar too closely. Spell Check is already giving me a rough time!


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