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A study undertaken by the Spelling Society claims that Americans are worse spellers than the British. Apparently, more than half of the surveyed Americans were unable to spell the words “embarrassed,” “liaison,” and “millennium,” among others.

In response to this, some American experts are blaming the problem on high school dropout rates; others argue that the problem is our dependence on technology, including such tools as spell check functions and Google. The Spelling Society blames the issue on irregular spellings in both American and British English, and they proposed setting up a cross-continental committee to promote spelling reforms.

I agree that indeed we have become dependent on these technological tools, and that this reliance likely has made us lax in regard to spelling and grammar. I admit to using these tools frequently; and I admit, they often catch my mistakes (gasp). However, I don’t trust that spell check will correctly edit my work. I use it as a first opinion. I trust that I or one of my colleagues will do a much more thorough spell check in addition to grammar checking and editing a document.

I often find myself arguing (sometimes out loud) with the spell and grammar check functions in word processors. They still are primitive and don’t account for the nuances of the English language. If you happen to spell search terms wrong in the search field, Google generally provides an alternative spelling (usually correct) of the search terms; however, it always amazes me how many results actually come up with the misspelled search terms, demonstrating how unreliable technology and the Internet can be. For me, this reinforces the fact that we should not be totally dependent on them!

Although Americans fared worse than their British counterparts, the Spelling Society stated that the results were rather appalling on both sides of the pond, which makes it all somewhat less embarrassing. So as we forge ahead in this millennium, we all need to brush up on our spelling and become less dependent on our liaisons with technological tools.

P.S. When I looked up information on the study in Google, I found this comment on a British website: “No word on whether Yankees got dinged for spelling ‘color’ without a ‘u’ in the middle.” So cheeky …

By Emily Trask



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