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It Pays to Know How to Spell (and Auto-Correct’s Most Embarrassing Moments)

John Burger - published on 05/30/16

Even if you are not looking to compete in a spelling bee, when it comes to personal communications, we're all called to be champions

Most of us will never need to spell words like rafraichissoir or Feldenkrais. And if we did, spell-check will help us out, right?

But those were two words—correctly spelled—that helped Nihar Saireddy Janga, 11, and Jairam Hathwar, 13, claim the honor of being the country’s best young spellers last week. Nihar and Jairam were named co-champions of the 89th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday.

It’s the third year in a row the contest has had co-champions. Some kids are getting so good that the National Bee has been having a hard time coming up with ways to knock out the best contenders so that only one is left standing.

The brainy kids who won (and take home a prize of $40,000 each, by the way) may be exceptional. But spelling correctly is still a vitally important skill for most of us in our daily lives and work. And yet, let’s face it, with computer-based dictionaries and auto-correct programs so common, how many of us take the time to look up the correct spelling of a word anymore? Or to proof-read what we’ve written?

Still, it’s always a good idea to look over an email before hitting the send button, to make sure there are no embarrassing errors, either those we’ve made by missing a key or those provided by an overzealous auto-correct program.

Spelling mistakes can make us laugh (such as the church sign announcing this past Easter that “Chris” had risen), but many times they lead to tears and regret as well. There are a number of websites that detail stories about mishaps stemming from failure to pay attention to detail, such as how a missing hyphen cost NASA an entire spacecraft.

But aside from potential costs, it’s simply a sign of respect to your intended audience or letter recipient to do your best to see that your writing is as clean as possible. Sure, we live and work in a fast-paced world. But trying to save time on your end—by sending an email as soon as you’ve finished writing it—can cost someone else time in trying to figure out what you mean, or cleaning up after a preventable error.

I usually take a quick look at least at the greetings with which I begin my emails, for example, ever since I inadvertently wrote to a priest, “Hell Father…”

Most of us probably have stories to tell. What are some of the embarrassing spelling or punctuation mistakes you’ve made in an email, and what happened? What did you learn from the experience? Have you learned some good techniques for proof-reading your own work?

And remember: we can’t always rely on spell-checker. What’s the craziest spell-check correction you’ve ever experienced?

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