Does Spelling Count?

I’m an awful speller. I always have been and knowing just how embarrassing a spelling error can be, I go through all sorts of craziness to prevent mistakes. I don’t just spell check, but I often check an online thesaurus to make sure I haven’t simply used a real word that looks a little like the word I intended to use.

Prior to spellcheck programs, a friend gave me a ‘misspeller dictionary.’ It was a brilliant, little book chuck full of ridiculous versions of commonly misspelled words. I kept it on my desk for years and eventually gave it to another lousy speller. I hope she passes it on when she finds a more effective protocol for blocking humiliating boo boos.

There’s a lot of fear dwelling in my mishaps and missteps, but is correct spelling still important? I’m not sure. We seem to be moving toward a time when there’s a great deal of leeway in this arena. Abbreviations and slang spellings R all over the web. Will they soon appear in long form text?

As a reader, I contend with the British English/American English spelling differences, made up words in fantasy & science fiction, and archaic words/spellings in historical novels. In a mystery set in Elizabethan England the first time “customs” appeared for customer, I thought it was a typo, but when it kept appearing I surmised from the context that it was a period word/spelling.

I’ve found spelling errors in ebooks put out by conventional publishers and by indie authors, too. No editor is going to catch ‘em all, but today I’m taking the question one step further… If the correct meaning is easily gleaned from the context, is the misspelled word so bad? I’m curious. As a reader or reader/writer, what do YOU think? Do spelling errors make you crazy?


  1. In a word, yes. I’m anal about spelling, partly because I can’t help myself and partly because I /notice/ typos and they always jerk me out of the story. But I guess if I were a Millenial and didn’t notice typos, I’d be wondering what all the fuss is about.
    -sigh- We may be the last of the dinosaurs. 🙁

    • Candy Korman

      I’m with you on this one. I find them and they annoy me, but I also produce them and try not to sweat too much. Wondering what the future will bring. Will it be less fuss about spelling or a new set of criteria?

  2. When it comes down to it, you really can’t overstate the importance of splling. 😉

    You’re pretty good, though. When I reviewed your books I only found a tiny number of errors in them . . . which is, well, unusual for self-published works, to say the least–and to say the least in the nicest way possible, at that.

    • Candy Korman

      I’m spilling all the words now…
      Yes, I remember you found lightening for lightning and I was mortified! Still, I’m wondering if I should bother being mortified or just roll with the spelling errors in this spelling era of anything goes?

  3. I think there’s something to be said for producing error-free prose, but a lot largely depends on context. Still, as a former writing teacher, I go cringe a bit about how lazy the language is becoming. I’ve edited a couple of British English books now too and it drives me crazy to make that shift. I adjust to those spelling faster though than I do to their use of quote marks which is the opposite of how we use them in American English.

    • Candy Korman

      I read so many British English books that sometimes I don’t know which version is “right.” (Except for those quote marks. I’m with you on that.)

      The other day a German friend was talking to a mutual friend’s six-year-old as the girl was writing something for school. The German was confused about COLOR versus COLOUR, so she called me in to consult. I’m an awful speller, but the little girl was right—at least on this side of the Atlantic. The German shrugged as I tried to explain that confusion.

      But, getting back to your point about error-free prose… Is it possible? I see it as an illusive goal. I keep trying, but when I catch them in books that have gone through a conventional publication process I feel like it might be impossible. Of course, I continue to rely on editors to catch my boo boos big and small. I want that spelling-error, grammar-error, factual-error free status for my novel-in-progress. For now, it’s a hot mess of a first draft LOL!