Chad Perrin: SOB

1 October 2007

Learn to spell! (yet another reason)

Filed under: Cognition,inanity — apotheon @ 10:39

I was reading some discussion on ruby-talk (yes, again — I do that pretty much daily, but don’t usually feel inspired to talk about it here) where a non-native English speaker asked a question. The question was about whether to start out with Ruby or Python, or something to that effect, and of course Ruby got the most votes (it being a Ruby discussion venue, not a Python venue). I noticed something troubling about the responses, however:

Some of these people were using words they knew how to use, but didn’t know how to spell.

When typing a message for someone who is not a native English speaker — and more to the point is obviously not a native speaker, the English being somewhat broken — it is imperative that you spell your words correctly. The reason for this is, of course, because non-native speakers are even less likely than usual to know every single word you use, and misspelling words makes them very difficult to look up in a dictionary.

Obviously, everyone can make a typo now and then, and can even miss it on a read-through to check for typos before hitting Submit. It’s also possible for someone who is generally an excellent speller to make an actual spelling error. In most cases, however, people who misspell things in communications over the Internet have a tendency to just be piss-poor spellers, and don’t give a crap.

Well, fine. I’ve come to realize that I can’t fix the whole world. So some people are willfully ignorant asses that can’t even be bothered to use an automated spell-checker for official correspondence, let alone a programming community mailing list — and, frankly, the programming community mailing lists I’ve followed over the years have been better about spelling than certain other online discussion venues. I guess I can live with that. On the other hand, when some inconsiderate, unthinking schmuck posts a relatively short email with more than half a dozen misspellings of words that aren’t all that commonly used in direct response to a speaker of broken English, there’s something desperately wrong with the way that person interacts with the world. Do you really expect someone from, say, Bangladesh who can barely string sentences together to understand a statement that centers on the so-called word “esotheric”? Not only is “esoteric” a, um, slightly esoteric word to many native English speakers, but when misspelled like that it suddenly becomes very difficult to look up for a definition.

If you know you have a spelling problem, and you’re writing (especially about technical subjects) for an audience of non-native English speakers, please — for the love of gob and all that’s wholly — use a damned speel chucker. It’s just common courtesy, you uncouth hick.


  1. I see no excuse for sloppy writing on mailing lists, forums and the like (IM and chat are probably the only exceptions). Firefox even has a spell-checker for forms, no add-on required. How simple is that??

    I even went off on some people in another mailing list for using tenant when they meant tenet. And multiple people, virtually all of them literate college-educated types, were making this mistake! Gah.

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 2 October 2007 @ 11:14

  2. It might be a sign of having Arabic as my first language, but whenever I encounter words I don’t recognize in English I read them phonetically (even if it’s obvious they aren’t meant to be pronounced that way, like ending in -tion for example). Thus I read “speel chucker” as “spiel chucker.” Personally, I think a lot of people could benefit from a good spiel chucker.

    Comment by Mina — 2 October 2007 @ 11:26

  3. A “spiel chucker” — does that discard what you were going to say to save you the embarrassment of having to defend it later, or does it launch your commentary at greater-than-normal velocities so they have greater impact?

    With “speel chucker”, I was just going for typo-like terms that could come out of an attempt to type “spell checker”, but slip past the spell checker because both words are actual, real words. In other words, I was making a “subtle” joke about how a spell checker isn’t really good enough — but would be better than nothing.

    Comment by apotheon — 2 October 2007 @ 12:31

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