Do It Write…

In the comic strip PICKLES, one of my favorites (and you know how I love the comics!), Opal spells R-H-Y-T-H-M for her husband, Earl. Earl says:  “No way!  That’s ridiculous!”  So Opal asks him how he would spell it.  He says: “R-I-T-H-U-M.”   Opal tells him that’s wrong.  “Maybe,” Earl says.  “But at least it’s not ridiculous.”

Right there is my personal stand on spelling:  We need a good dose of good sense!

Still, I know that Earl Pickles and Ben Franklin and I are never going to prevail in our campaign to force reason into English spelling.  So I surrender.  I’ll do what all of us must do when faced with whatever bugaboo messes up our writing–I’ll adjust to the accepted way.

I’ve heard it again and again:  “What difference does my spelling/grammar/ punctuation make?  Hey, they’ve got editors to fix stuff like that!  What else is an editor for?”

Many, many things.  But one of the busy editor’s jobs is to choose which manuscripts to eliminate and which to pursue.  Sometimes this can be a most difficult job.  So many good tales, so few slots for new books.  But it gets easier when it is apparent that a manuscript will take time and effort to clean up.  Besides, if a writer doesn’t care enough to present a professional manuscript, what does that say about him or her?

Here’s a quick quiz to let you know where you stand spelling-wise:

Can you find the mispelled words in this paragraph?  The consensus of thought will be that we need only seperate the most difficult words–except perhaps those that are absolutely indispensable.  But doing that just to accomodate the poor spellers among us, and to keep them from being embarrased, would be to exercise poor judgment.  Words are not deductible.  If you doubt that, consider the foreword in your own book. 

Okay, how many misspelled words did you find?  (Yep, that was one!) You should have these four:

  • misspelled
  • accommodate
  • embarrassed
  • separate

Your score:

  • If you got them all right, you are an editor’s delight.
  • If you missed one, you need to take action.
  • If you missed two, get ready to bid your high advance adieu.
  • If you missed three, it will explain why your editor’s testy.
  • If you missed four, you’re out the door.

Botton line: Write Right!

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s work.”

H. G. Wells 


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