No, I’m not testing your tolerance for corny jokes; I’m pointing out just how difficult English spelling truly is. Consider silent letters like the p, different sounds represented by the same letters (through, trough and though), a host of German, French and Latin words introduced by invaders from mainland Europa and a sad truth emerges: You need to memorize almost every word in English if you want to spell correctly.
I’ve got an easier solution: Spell words incorrectly. Why? So you don’t cause the wheels of your thought train to come to a screeching halt every time you’re facing a dilema, dilemna or dilemma. If you stop to figure it out, you’ll slow down and stifle your writing at the same time.
Need further encouragement? Remember that English spelling was first codified in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary in 1755—and look what Shakespeare accomplished without knowing the right way to spell any of the 17,677 words he used.
If you’re still so OCD about proper spelling that you need support, I’m offering three suggestions (from least to most difficult) to escape the Spelling Bee raging in your brain:
1) Dictate what you have to say. Technically that’s not writing but don’t quibble if it works. As I wrote in a James Chartrand guest blog, National Book Award winner and New York Times essayist Richard Powers claims he hasn’t touched a keyboard in years, not even to write an email. If your iPhone can take dictation reasonably well, imagine what today’s voice-recognition software can do for you. What’s more, it can probably even spell reasonably well.
And face it: Unless you’re a professional writer, you probably speak better than you write anyway. Your ideas will flow much more quickly and creatively—in a torrent of spoken words rather than a trickle of typed ones.
2) Turn off spell check. I dropped by a convenience store last week to pick up something to satisfy my crunchy-salty addiction. The cashier must have made an error while ringing up my fun size bag of Lay’s, because the cash register distinctly said “Uh-Oh.” I wish I were kidding; the cashier wishes it even more. Nothing is quite so demoralizing as knowing that an inanimate object will deliver an annoying reminder every time you make a mistake.
Likewise those squiggly little red lines under words that Word thinks you have misspelled are a constant reminder that you didn’t get it right. If you can ignore them, great. If you feel compelled to make the squiggle go away every time you see one, you’ll be busier than Samuel L. Jackson in “Snakes on a Plane.” So say goodbye to the red spelling squiggles and their green grammar cohorts—you’re better off without them.
3) Learn to type faster. Most people speak at about 150 words per minute and think at 600-700 words per minute—meaning that even if you’re talking fast, you’re still capturing only 25% of your thoughts. Now comes the really bad news: When composing, studies show that average typists turn out about 19 words a minute—about 3 percent of their thoughts. So don’t be an average typist; be an amazing one.
Unfortunately fast typing has gone the way of the typewriter—since the dawn of the personal computer, entire generations have embraced hunt and peck. I think some h&p-ers think that if they train two fingers, the rest will eventually catch on and join in. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen.
Others find that they don’t have to hunt as much after a while: They know where the keys are, but they still need to look at the keyboard to hit them. Not only does that take time, but they miss out on the on-screen action.
Touch typing is generally faster, so it’s worth learning to do well to free up your focus. And if you’ve already learned the technique but your typing sounds more like a clip-clop than a gallop, try an occasional tune-up—you should hit 60 words per minute easily.
As long as you capture your ideas well enough to recognize them when you see them again, you’ve achieved success. Of course, the time will come to edit. Then it’s time to pay attention to spelling, grammar, content and my Fab 5 Editing Checks.
But for now, stop caring what you see on the screen—and write faster and freer than ever.
PS—Still have doubts? Then ponder this quote from the inimitable Mark Twain:
I never had any large respect for good spelling. That is my feeling yet. Before the spelling-book came with its arbitrary forms, men unconsciously revealed shades of their characters and also added enlightening shades of expression to what they wrote by their spelling, and so it is possible that the spelling-book has been a doubtful benevolence to us.
Diana Kightlinger is a professional print and digital copywriter and content writer for high-achieving businesses, from solo entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies. For more helpful info, like Eclipse Communications on Facebook and follow her on Eclipsewriter Blog and on Twitter at #eclipsewriter.