I was spelling the word surreptitious the other day, and I had to grab the Canadian Oxford because something just didn’t look right. Sure enough, something wasn’t right: I had written surrepticious.
Spelling matters. I would argue that text with several spelling errors — not merely typos — makes the writer look careless at best and unintelligent at worst. Of course, as an editor, making sure words are correctly spelled is part of the job.
Think your spelling is up to snuff? Here’s a test for you. What words are misspelled in the list below? (And note that I’m talking about the correct Canadian spelling, which tends to be a mix of British and American spellings.)
deductible icewine benefited
prerogative toque judgment
sacrilegious humorous manoeuvre
supersede enrol appendices
transferable forestall skepticism
withhold skilful grey
ad nauseam woollen whisky
occasion focused minuscule
So, have you decided which words are misspelled? Did any stump you, or did you find the misspelled words easily enough? In fact, the words in the above list are all spelled correctly. Consult the Canadian Oxford Dictionary if you must, but I’m telling you the truth. (I know one editor who prefers tuque to toque, but the dictionary doesn’t. It gives tuque as a variance of the preferred toque.)
As a newbie editor, I find myself searching through the dictionary a lot, just to be sure. Who wants to get called out for a spelling mistake — it’s too basic an error to commit. But time is money, and the more time I spend checking my spelling, the less money I make per hour. It pays to be a good speller.
For an in-depth analysis of English spelling and our relationship with it, check out Simon Horobin’s new book, Does Spelling Matter? Here’s a review.