Does spelling count?

The Country Curmudgeon

“Does spelling count?” The cry of the American student. It seems there is a lot of stuff that “doesn’t count” anymore, things that I was brought up to believe in.

Back in the Stone Age, when I was a younker (go on, grab a dictionary if you’re wondering what this means), the cry  would usually go up in history class when a written assignment was on the table. The argument seemed to be that since this was not English class, it should be OK to write unintelligibly. There were even a few brave or stupid souls, I am not sure which, who would try this in English class, where they were promptly put in their place.

Nobody seemed to be worried about having to use written communication in their future. School was school and for most seemed to exist in a vacuum, unrelated to reality. I can’t say they did much back then to change this impression.

Then there was timeliness.  Now, in high school they cut you a lot of slack, as infuriating as this was to someone who used to get his papers in on time, not mentioning any names here. Then I went to college. Aha! I thought. Now they will get it. This is grown-up land. No slack here. Do or die.

The first paper was due on Friday, and I showed up, work in hand, smug in the knowledge that justice would be meted out today. Up went the cry! “We couldn’t finish. Can we have until Monday to hand it in?” And then the crusher: “Well, OK, hand it in Monday.”

What? What! WHAT! Oh wait. Here comes someone late to class. They lock you out if you are not there on time. Oh, no. Apparently they don’t. That’s just something they say. Fooled again.

When I entered the work force I knew these people, these “slackers,” would get their come-uppance. What boss would accept this kind of sloppy work, misspelled words, impossible grammar and child-like syntax?  

The answer was a boss who came from the same system. Mine actually preferred this kind of work as nonthreatening to his abilities, as it made him more secure. It seems that correct spelling and grammar and organized, concise reporting made him look bad by comparison. I certainly did not get paid any more than the guys that could say, “A year ago I could not spell salezman, now I are one.”

There, that does it. Now just let me do a spellcheck and then I’d better run this over to the editor. It was due last night.

Bill Abrams resides, and longs for perfection, in Pine Plains.