There's No Shame in Being a Bad Speller/Poor Grammarian

Published: 01st April 2007
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The following is the transcript of a recent voicemail I received from a client:

"Hi, Laura. It's Elizabeth*. I really hope I caught you in time. You know that article I sent you to edit? Don't open it! I mean, I hope you didn't look at it yet. I just reread it, and realized it's terrible. I need to rework it. I'll see what I can do with it later this afternoon, and send you my improved version tonight or tomorrow. Thanks."

Unfortunately, Elizabeth still has not sent me the revision.

It's a funny thing about writing. Many people have absolutely no confidence at all in their ability. Thing is, they are often more skilled than they give themselves credit for. And for those whose ability is less than stellar, that's the whole reason they hire an editor, isn't it?

What I'd like to convince my client, Elizabeth, though - and everyone else out there who feels like she does - is that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about, with regard to her writing skills. No matter how bad the spelling or how egregious the grammar errors, none of that is representative of how smart she is or how important the information she wants to share with her audience.

In a 2000 article, "What Does Your Spelling Say About You Behind Your Back?" Sandra Linville references Marilyn Vos Savant's book, "The Art of Spelling: The Madness and the Method." Vos Savant wrote her book after conducting a 1998 survey in her Parade Magazine column, in which she asked, "What does your spelling really say about you? Is spelling ability a measure of your education, intelligence, desire, or none of the above?"

In her article, Linville explains, "The survey garnered more than 42,000 responses, indicating that better organizational skills benefit spelling ability, rather than intelligence. However, Vos Savant realizes that inept spellers can look inept in other ways. A misspelled word can kill a job offer or result in a rejected proposal. She also states that an English-speaking perfect speller doesn't exist."

Corresponding with Vos Savant's theory, it is widely reputed that Albert Einstein, the unquestionable genius physicist, was so bad at spelling that he was initially assumed to be retarded. In fact, according to the 1998 article, "Ten Obscure Factoids Concerning Albert Einstein," Factoid #3 is:

"HE WAS A ROTTEN SPELLER. Although he lived for many years in the United States and was fully bilingual, Einstein claimed never to be able to write in English because of 'the treacherous spelling.' He never lost his distinctive German accent either, summed up by his catch-phrase 'I vill a little t'ink.'"

Renowned social scientist Howard Gardner has done much research on the concept of multiple intelligences. Essentially, although each of us has many ways in which we learn and perceive information, we generally have one primary area where we excel.

Although Gardner originally determined seven different intelligences, an eighth one, naturalistic intelligence, has recently been added to the list. Brief descriptions of each intelligence are:

Verbal/Linguistic - This intelligence is related to words and language, both written and spoken. It dominates most educational systems in the United States.

Logical/Mathematical - Often called "scientific thinking," this intelligence is related to inductive and deductive thinking and reasoning, numbers, and the recognition of abstract patterns.

Visual/Spatial - This intelligence relies on the sense of sight and being able to visualize an object, including the ability to create internal mental images/pictures. People who enjoy mediation and guided imagery or hypnosis are commonly very visual or spatial learners.

Intrapersonal - This intelligence relates to inner states of being, self-reflection, metacognition (i.e., thinking about thinking), and awareness of spiritual realities.

Interpersonal - This intelligence operates primarily through person-to-person relationships and communication.

Bodily/Kinesthetic - This intelligence is related to physical movement and the knowing/wisdom of the body, including the brain's motor cortex, which controls bodily motion.

Musical/Rhythmic - This intelligence is based on the recognition of tonal patterns, including various environmental sounds, and on sensitivity to rhythm and beats.

Naturalistic - This intelligence is based on the sensing of patterns in and making connections to elements in nature.

So although verbal and linguistic may arguably be perceived as the most commonly emphasized of the eight intelligences, it is far from the only one. The fact is that each us has special skills - and it's not always spelling and grammar. Those may be my personal strengths, but just ask my niece about my fiasco as a sub, teaching math to her 6th grade Montessori class.

My client who said she needed to rewrite her article before she sent it to me reminded me of those people who feel they have to clean their houses before the housekeeper arrives. That one also baffles me. If we could all just get past our shame about our deficiencies and focus on the things we do well, life would be so much easier.

* This name has been changed to protect my client's identity.

LAURA ORSINI is a professional editor, writer, and marketing advisor with a BA in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Arizona. She is the author of several eBooks, including "Words Made Easy," "eBooks Made Easy," "Niching Made Easy," "Handwriting Analysis Made Easy," and "1,001 Real-Life Questions for Women." She also gives seminars on creativity, writing, and gratitude and abundance, teaching practical techniques for thinking, visualizing, and brainstorming. Contact her at: or (602) 253-8463.

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