Does spelling in a written text matter? In my opinion, it does. Making a spelling error makes a person appear uneducated or lazy. Neither trait is desirable in a student, a research assistant, a collaborator or a fellow faculty. Having a spelling error on a web page -- or permanently compiled in a Windows text -- is like having a drunk in the lobby of your business 24 hours a day.
" How can you trust someone who doesn't bother to spell correctly or can't manage
to lay out a simple declarative sentence?"
Here are some useful links:
Spelling? An interesting tool (Wordsmyth).
An interesting article from the Manchester Guardian Weekly. Article.
Spellchecker - Great tool. Use it. But read also what you wrote. Once I accepted without thinking an alternative for "deionized water" as "demonized water" and passed it without knowing on to my supervisor. Also, some words may be spelled correctly but not meaning what you intended. Once I got from a student a request for letter of recommendation. In it it said: "Dear Prof. Vanysek, I want to follow up on my request for letter of recordation. I was hopping if you can mail it to following address." He did not get a good one.
Spellchecker will not catch common typing errors such as form-from.
The price of Nobel prize comes from the medal made from noble metal.
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The words or phrases that I will mark while copy editing and for which, in a class setting and when related to chemistry, I may subtract points:
it's - The discussion about this most frequent misuse does not bother me in particular.
In scientific writing there is no need to use any apostrophe at all. First of all, one
should not use contractions (I'm, etc.) in technical text, because this forces the readers
to pronounce the sentence in a certain way perhaps alien to them. Second, the apostrophe
and an s forming an adjective should be used only with living objects (brother's
experiment, but not device's dimension), and third, plurals of acronyms, if needed
to be pluralized at all, do not need the apostrophe either (STMs). It's means "it
is." If you write "at it's meeting the committee decided..." you must be
prepared to write "my student did not prepare she's experiment."
Plural of acronyms - There is lot of explanation how this should be done, whether there should be an apostrophe or not. Adding the s to denote a plural works in English. Most of other languages do not have this simple approach and they deal with acronyms in very elegant way -- they leave them as they are, no plurals, no inflections. We can probably do it safely in English as well. Remember, an acronym is useful in writing. If you want to improve your spoken communication, do not spell out the acronym, say its meaning in words. Metric symbols also do not use the plural. For example five kilometers will be written 5 km, not 5 kms.
flourine (in case you wonder, this is wrong)
Fisher Scientific, supplier of laboratory equipment and material to universities, does help to educate young minds when it mislabels "Coarse" filter paper.
phosphorus and phosphorous - the second is an adjective (challenge: find a noun that ends -ous).
there - It took me long time to even realize that some people write there and mean their. Perhaps I pronounce the words incorrectly, but to me the two are different. (After hearing Rush Limbaugh pronouncing the two the same way, I looked in the dictionary and they appear to have the same pronunciation. Thus, no way out, memorize the spelling.) Peter Raymond corresponded to me stating that this may well be a typing error. Well, perhaps so, but only if it is a typed text. I see quite a bit of this in hand-written texts, including "thier" presumably for their.
were, where - it may "sound" the same but it does not look the same and it is hard to decipher the text if you meant the other word (Note: Like many people who learned to read, write and speak English, I do not sound words when I read them. Hence, the similarity of were and where is lost on me). "Why is capacitive dispersion or a constant phase element said to be a power law function of frequency if it where not true?"
your - it does not mean "you are," which could be written as you're
you - There is nothing wrong with you, but personification in technical writing is wrong. To say that "photoeffect is when you shine photons on a metal surface" implies that I have to shine the photons. What if somebody else shines the photons? Is it not going to be a photoeffect anyway? Does anyone need to shine a photon? If a photon shines in a forest on a piece of a metal, electron is ejected, and nobody is there to see it, is it still a photoeffect? If something happens without human intervention, say it that way. Do not involve the readers, who may not have any intention to mix some stinking chemicals together themselves. Also, avoid anthropomorphism. "An enzyme thinks it has encountered a protein...." Well, it does not.
protein - not protien,
sulpher, or sulfer are wrong, sulfur is the US way, sulphur elsewhere - if you write "sulphur" you need to write "colour"
molybdenum - the pronunciation tends to be hard, there is a b followed by d, just like in lambda
etc. - it stands for et cetera, and it is pronounced etcetera. There is no k in the word as in ekcetera.
affect vs. effect
"sound alike words" - grading, grating, sine wave, sign wave, site, sight,
adsorption vs. absorption; also recall that the verb is to absorb, not to absorp
podiatry - branch of medicine dealing with the disease of the foot. Pediatry - branch of medicine dealing with the disease of a child. Pediatry as a noun is rarely used in English, but it is common as pediatric medicine. However, to write pediatry and mean podiatry is a foot in a mouth.
busy slide - busy implies activity. Although an overcrowded design can be called busy, a slide with too much information should not. For that matter, such a slide should not be even shown.
"if there is time left, I will show..." - a phrase in introduction of a presentation that should not be uttered. If the presentation, with slides, PowerPoint and all, is prepared, then the author knows how long the talk will take. This phrase is admission of lack of practice. In class lectures it may not be possible to make the timing right. Still, there is no point to promise something that may not happen.
this past - frequently used, but has a flaw in it. This usually relates to something at
hand, the present, not the past. This past summer may well mean the summer that has just
passed, but "last summer" will say it more elegantly. There is a gem: "When
it was introduced, I asked the City Attorney to refer the matter to the consultant who
wrote the telecommunications ordinance this past last year." (Council proceedings of the
City of Shreveport, LA, January 13, 1998)
voltammetry has double m - it comes from volt-amperometry where ampere-meter was shortened to ammeter. Voltametry would be measurement of the Volta potential.
two aspirins - like two dogs, aspirins, pairs, Mercedeses and Tylenols should take
plural. Perhaps even two dozens? Anybody knows why "Two Gray Hill" Navajo rug
design does not have the plural s?
historic/historical A historic book is one which has had an important effect upon the course of history. A historical book, however, is merely about history. (The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995).
The noun suffix ic forms the noun static: stat + ic, the adjective suffix cal forms the
adjective optical: opti + cal.
1 - if you grew up outside the US and come to America, write the number one as a vertical line ( | ) not with the hook (1). If you do, it will be invariably interpreted as 7.
12 PM, 12AM - AM and PM is used in North America to tell time. A stands for "before," P stands for "after" and M stands for "noon." Thus, 12PM or AM make no sense and in fact, the time should be given as 12 noon, or 12 midnight. In the state of California a court decision invalidated parking tickets based on signs "no parking 12AM-12PM" as meaningless. Apparently, though, 12 PM means customarily noon.
billion - to those who grew up outside the US: A billion is 109, not 1012. There is no "milliard" in American English.
site, sight, cite, ... oh...sigh: A site is a place for building or camping, a location, thus a web site. Sight is the gift of seeing or understanding. Of course, some web sites can be a sight to behold. To cite is to quote or to refer to someone else's words, also to issue a violation ticket.
friday, wednesday, july, i, - Capitalization in writing still matters.
Daylight saving time - note it is not savings just saving. No plural or adjective. When does it happen and when does it end can be found e.g. here. Notice that in Europe DST started usually a week earlier, until 2007, when in the US the start was moved 3 weeks earlier and end delayed by a week.
Indeterminate gender - this is how "gender-neutral" should be called. Neutral gender is, after all, "it." In fact, in British English a young child is referred to as "it" and perhaps one could avoid the issue of he/she by switching to it. "A student came to my office with its book. It opened it at the problems page, pointed to it and asked me if I could explain it to it." Rare, but precise word for indeterminate gender is "epicene."
Many will agree that to use in English language third person singular he as a default pronoun, when the sex is unknown, is gender biased. The easiest way to go around the problem is to rephrase the sentence and if possible, switch to plural. However, I am a strong believer that "they" goes with a plural and should not be used in singular. A teaching assistant reported to me that on particular test "they had difficulty solving problem number three." I worried that my wording might have been incorrect and that most of the class has had a difficulty with this particular problem. It turned out, it was a one particular person. Perhaps the teaching assistant was right in not disclosing the gender of the student - no point to be biased one way or another. But more effective way would be to say - "This particular student could not solve problem number three."
I also believe that it is not appropriate, in fact, that it is wrong, to conceal the gender when it is known and could be useful. A colleague mentioned to me "Someone was waiting for you and they just left this very second." I could run out, look down the stairs and see who might be there. I might even call out. But for whom? Was it the group of people there on the left? Or was it the young man with the back pack? Or was it perhaps Jennifer, the librarian, who might have needed something from me? Oh no, this is the late nineties. I would not want to embarrass anymany let alone itself by calling out after they down the stairwell. If they need me, they will come again.
Generic pronouns. Something interesting for thought: In parallel with he/him/his and
Gender neutrality gone wild: (Northern Star, April 9, 2009) "DeKalb. An NIU student was robbed at gunpoint in his or her room at Neptune East Monday afternoon."
Valley girl accent - a curious pattern of speech, not an issue of spelling. But as speech goes, it is to its user potentially as damaging as is bad spelling. The hallmark of this patter is that a normal declaratory sentence ends as if with a question mark. So, the sentence sounds as if it were a question. Using it makes you appear weak, uncertain. Each your answer sounds as if you are fishing for the answer. "What is the capitol of Canada?" I ask. The valley girl answer will sound: "Ottawa?" And I will wonder if it was a lucky guess or actual knowledge. Of course, the true valley girl would answer: "Montreal?"
Not really spelling, rather a choice of words. The following is an example of e-mail addresses some people picked (perhaps changed slightly) to communicate. Fine, if you write to your friends. But what if you are trying to make a business contact? Do you think the names like these inspire respect? More likely, with ever increasing volume of spam, they will not be even read.
Barack Obama (the senator of Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama[added 31 Dec. 2012: And soon to be a second-term president]) - The name, as commonly spoken, consists of two words. If you do not pronounce them separately, with a space, you will end up with what sounds like Baraco Bama or even worse, and not very flattering, a hyphenated adjective barako-bama, as in The Barako-Bamean Doctrine. (In Hungarian, barack means apricot, but this is probably just an idle observation.) Of course, there are other names that sound different than what they are. Take Dr. Deena Dell, ABC syndicated radio host. Actually, it is Dean Edell.
Writing a ransom note is no excuse for slipshod grammar or spelling. (Found at http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/38469.)
Wikipedia - Why not use it in learning:
Inception: 23 September 1998
No existing electrons were harmed during preparation of this document.