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Are Correct Spelling and Grammar Still Important?

Updated on February 19, 2015
Source

It's the "Principle" of the Thing...

The other day, I was reading an online article in which the author quoted a statement from a school principal. However, instead of using the word "principal," the author used the word "principle." Now some of you might say, "What's the problem? Isn't that a correct spelling of the word?" If you are asking that, then you are right, it is a correct spelling of the word. However, that "correct spelling" doesn't fit the content. The word "principle" refers to an idea, a basic truth if you will. The other spelling, "principal" (notice the endings on these two words) refers to a person, usually the head of a school. Because of this problem, I was unable to finish reading the article. I could no longer believe in the author's credibility.

After I had finished my ranting, I began to ponder just how important correct grammar really is. (Writing has always been a passion of mine, and grammar has always come easily to me, which is why I tend to notice mistakes all over the place.) How many articles had I not finished because I found one mistake? This may be a little harsh on my part, but I think the topic deserves discussion.

How important are correct grammar and spelling in today's world? In this article, I will attempt to answer that question using the following topics:

  • Why is our grammar changing?
  • Where is correct grammar needed?
  • Where to find help with grammar and spelling

Why is Our Grammar Changing?

I have a couple of theories on why our grammar and spelling are changing. First, we are communicating so much more now through written word - texting, Twitter, Facebook, etc. As a matter of fact, according to Experian.com, young adults are sending and receiving over 3,000 texts a month (see chart below). On Twitter, over 400 million tweets are posted everyday, according to the Washington Post. However, in both these instances, shortened sentences and words are encouraged in order to say as much as possible in very few characters (140 or less for Twitter users.). In other words, grammar is not an issue. How many times a day are we asked to write an email, a research paper, or a report? In these instances, correct grammar and spelling are not optional, they are required. If we were writing 3,000 reports and papers a month, of course our writing would be much better because of the constant practice.

Average number of mobile texts sent and received per month by age
Average number of mobile texts sent and received per month by age | Source

Second, think about the amount of unedited text that is added to the world every minute. Now more than ever we are sharing our thoughts and opinions about everything. Ten years ago, when we read a fascinating article, we either talked about it with our friends, or if we read it in a newspaper, we took the time to write a letter to the editor. Now, in our social media-driven world, we can quickly leave a comment without having to send it through an editor first. How many of you have commented on a video on YouTube or a status on Facebook? Because of the instant gratification of hitting the share button, there are no rules. No one is coming behind us, telling us about the mistakes we made in our posts.

Grammar in the News

Read an article posted on CNBC News' website about employers' frustration with the poor writing skills of potential candidates.

Why Johnny can't write, and why employers are mad...

Where is Correct Grammar Needed?

So if incorrect grammar is okay in texting and social media, then what is the problem? I'm glad you asked. The problem is that the lack of correctness isn't staying in its proper place. This problem is spilling over into online articles, advertisements, and even into other media such as papers and magazines. Why is correctness important? When a published work, even if it is a short advertisement, has a mistake, that means that time wasn't taken to make sure it was the best it could be. I always use this as a rule of thumb. If what I am reading is not absolutely perfect, then it isn't credible and proper time and effort was not put into the piece that is being presented to me.

I also use this rule when searching websites. Most of the time, when I have a question, I go to Google for my answer. Because I want the best answer possible, I am always on the lookout for correctness on the websites that I check. If a website has any kind of incorrect grammar or spelling, to me that means that it is not professionally done, and will probably give me false information. This isn't always the case because no one is perfect and mistakes happen. But that is why constant editing is so important - to make sure you are presenting your best product possible.

If you are planning on doing some writing, remember that improper grammar should remain in its proper place, especially if you want to be taken seriously. Here are a few places where correctness is essential:

  • Resumes
  • Emails, especially those that are business related
  • Online articles and public blogs
  • Websites


Where to Find Help

  • Standard Dictionary
  • Peer editing
  • A teacher or parent
  • Your school's Writing Center
  • Websites such as Dictionary.com
  • List of commonly misspelled words
  • Textbooks on writing

Where to Find Help with Your Writing

I can't rant and preach without offering some help, so here you go. Where can you find help with your grammar and spelling? Well the first place to look - especially when in doubt about how to spell a word - is in a good old-fashioned dictionary. A dictionary will never steer you wrong. When in doubt, take a quick peek. Keep one by your desk; or, if you don't like the thought of having to flip through pages, use a website such as Dictionary.com or a dictionary app on your phone.

Also, don't be afraid to ask for help. Have someone you trust to read your piece before publishing it. Another set of eyes may help you catch something that you might have missed yourself. You can ask a friend, parent, teacher, or, for you college students, the writing center at your school, to look over your piece and give you advice. Not only can they help with the mechanics, but also with the subject matter and the flow of the piece.

Use dictionaries and other resources to help with editing your writing.
Use dictionaries and other resources to help with editing your writing. | Source

It also helps to constantly edit and re-read your work as you go. After writing a paragraph, stop and read it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Are there any words that I am unsure about?
  • Does it flow well?

Although the flow of the piece doesn't necessarily refer to grammar, it will still make your writing easier and more enjoyable for the reader.

Another way to help is to keep a list of commonly misspelled words by your desk. I have made up my own list and included it below. You can also find lengthier lists online simply by searching for commonly misspelled words on your favorite search engine.

And the Answer Is...

Yes, grammar and spelling are still very important, even if a lot of writing we do everyday doesn't have to be perfect. More and more people are publishing themselves today. Make yourself stand out by making your work the best it can be!

Commonly Confused and Misspelled Words

Meaning Intended
Correct Word
Word often used
They possess something
Their
There
Indicating a location of something
There
Their
They are
They're
There, their
Opposite of tight
Loose
Lose
Opposite of win
Lose
Loose
Something that happens because of something else
Effect
Affect
To cause something to change
Affect
Effect
An idea, a basic truth
Principle
Principal
The head of an organization, usually a school
Principal
Principle
You are
You're
Your
Use this chart to help distinguish which word to use when.

What Do You Think?

Is it okay for an article to make one mistake and still be published?

See results

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    • Ashley Suddreth profile image
      Author

      Ashley Suddreth 2 years ago

      Hey guys, I'm back! To Michael and Michelle, thanks for catching my other mistake with the work 'peak.' I guess I have to say that I'm not perfect either. I have recently decided that one mistake here and there isn't the end of the world as long as I can understand what I am reading. There are some mistakes that still drive me crazy when I see them, but I have decided that one mistake in an entire piece isn't that big of a deal. A lot of writers, especially those writing for the Internet, have to write in a hurry. I still think proper and grammar and editing is important, but when there is a time constraint, I can understand the possibility of having a mistake or two. Thank you all for your great comments. I know it has been a long time since I have been here. Not making any promises, but I would love to post another hub soon. Hope you guys come back and comment!

      P.S. Michael and Michelle, I will be fixing that mistake as soon as I post this comment! :)

    • profile image

      Johnd889 3 years ago

      This really is actually fascinating, That you are a quite specialist blogger. Ive joined your rss feed and sit up for looking for more of your excellent post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks! dbgffdfafcdc

    • profile image

      Michael 3 years ago

      "...quick peak" should read "quick peek" above, but I got it. Thanks for this post, I agree whole-heartedly.

    • profile image

      michelle riley 3 years ago

      "A dictionary will never steer you wrong. When in doubt, take a quick peak."

      was the wrong spelling of peek intentional? if so, clever. if not, then this is awkward. :/

    • profile image

      john1934 3 years ago

      You are correct, I put your article down because you used: "firstly" and "secondly". I was taught to write instead: first, second....

      This raises the question, who do we go to for perfect training in grammar?

      John

    • Steve Witschel profile image

      Steve Witschel 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I enjoyed your article. I just published a hub last night about why I think spelling and grammar are, in fact, important - and that led me to your hub. Nice work!

    • Ashley Suddreth profile image
      Author

      Ashley Suddreth 3 years ago

      I'm glad there is someone who agrees. And thank you for catching my mistake. You said in your last paragraph that people who use proper grammar will stand out in the job market. I would encourage you, if you haven't already done so, to read the article that I posted a link to above. It is called "Why Johnny can't write and why employers are mad." It is from the NBC News website.

      Thank you for your comment!

      Ashley

    • Aoneill profile image

      Andrea 3 years ago from Auburn, CA

      My first thought: I believe it's "ARE correct spelling and grammar important?"

      I think this is a great topic and totally under-rated. I misspelled the word "friend" in front of the entire 4th grade class when I was 9 years old and believe me, I haven't misspelled a word since. I often use the same phraseology the JG11Bravo used, when addressing "the decline" of the English language and proper spelling. And you're right, the incorrect versions are spilling over into areas that call for correctness.

      In my small town of Auburn, CA, the public safety officials set up one of those light-up message boards along a section of highway that sees accidents frequently. The first message advised of the speed limit which clearly NO ONE knew (despite the speed limit signs). The second message said "Slow down, drive safe". I almost ran off the road. And I checked, there was more than enough space to shimmy an "ly" at the end. I'm ashamed to say that I never did call Public Works and have them correct this. But I did get the writer of a street/road-related column in the Bay Area to agree that he really had an obligation to not contribute to this decline by mimicking the style in which questions were submitted to him online - sans punctuation or capital letters, it was horrifying. I haven't checked up on him lately but he promised to observe the rules of spelling, grammar and punctuation when he responded to his public.

      I just feel like - why is it important? It just is!! It's what separates us from the animals. These days, it's beginning to separate different classes of people. Those youngsters who stick to careful and proper grammar and spelling will begin to stand out in the job market.

      Thanks,

      Andrea

    • Ashley Suddreth profile image
      Author

      Ashley Suddreth 3 years ago

      Thank you! Its something that I am always ranting about, so I decided to put my knowledge into action. Thanks again!

    • JG11Bravo profile image

      JG11Bravo 3 years ago

      Quite interesting. You've done a great job of exploring the decline of proper grammar. I really enjoyed this.