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The Case for Careless Writing

In a digital age of autocorrect and electronic publications that can be edited from afar, not to mention social media platforms that prize authenticity and immediacy over polish, misspelling has become a mostly forgivable mistake. You simply do not need to be able to spell as well as people once had to, because we now have tools that can catch and correct our errors.... ...
Twitter’s appeal lies in its being a place to record one’s instant and primal observations on events happening around you — it’s something like the first draft of the world’s thoughts.

This immediacy inevitably invites error and overreach, which is often much of the fun of it; Twitter is watching someone say the wrong thing in the wrong way at the wrong time, making fun of him, forgetting about it, and then doing the whole thing all over again tomorrow. ...
Yet there is an even deeper sort of elitism underlying the criticism of spelling mistakes. It stems from people correlating accurate spelling with a good education and outsize intelligence, which is actually incorrect.

There is not much scientific evidence to suggest that spelling well is connected to high intelligence. In the same way that some people are naturally better at arithmetic than others, some are naturally better spellers than others.... ...
Standardized spelling in English came about because of a technological advance — the printing press, which created a greater need for a common way of rendering words. ...
It was only in the 20th century, as spelling became a mainstay of the modern public education system, that the ability to memorize how certain words should be rendered began to take on extra social weight. ...
Standardized spelling has been with English for at least a few hundred years, and it has mostly served us well. So I understand that the idea of abandoning it, or at least relaxing our adherence to it, may sound frightening, like the first step on a short march to civilizational decline. ...
...if someone spells well, it shows they have taken care to write something.... That Mr. Trump and his staff often misspell is a sign that they may be careless about everything else.
That’s a fair argument. But I’ll end with two things.

First, everyone’s sloppy sometimes, and more so these days, because our devices all but encourage it. ...
Second, there’s little evidence that how one types on electronic media has much to say about how one functions otherwise. ...
All of this suggests that we are simply giving too much weight to spelling and other typographical mistakes. Focus on what people say, not how they spell it.
- Farhad Manjoo, So Trump Makes Spelling Errors. In the Twitter Age, Whoo Doesn’t?, NYT, AUG. 27, 2017



On the other hand, carelessness in communication can lead to misunderstandings, as when an email to Internet Travel Network CEO Al Whaley containing confidential information was sent to all at itn.net instead of al at itn.net.


“This is a legitimate email,” Charles Delavan, a Clinton campaign aide, replied to another of Mr. Podesta’s aides, who had noticed the alert. “John needs to change his password immediately.”

With another click, a decade of emails that Mr. Podesta maintained in his Gmail account — a total of about 60,000 — were unlocked for the Russian hackers. Mr. Delavan, in an interview, said that his bad advice was a result of a typo: He knew this was a phishing attack, as the campaign was getting dozens of them. He said he had meant to type that it was an “illegitimate” email, an error that he said has plagued him ever since.
- ERIC LIPTON, DAVID E. SANGER and SCOTT SHANE, The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S., NYT, DEC. 13, 2016



Here's a case where a slight imperfection in communication — albeit imperfect grammar and pronunciation rather than imperfect spelling — proved fatal.

Vera Mol, a 17-year-old from the Netherlands, was standing on a 130-foot-high bridge on Spain’s northern coast, bracing for her first bungee jump.

It was 8:30 p.m., and she was the last in a group of 13 teenagers to go, when the instructor gave a command.

“No jump, it’s important, no jump,” he said in English, according to court documents. But Ms. Mol, apparently misunderstanding his pronunciation, heard, “Now jump.” She threw herself from the ledge — and plunged to her death. The harness she was wearing had not yet been secured to the bridge.
- DAN BILEFSKY and RAPHAEL MINDER, Deadly Bungee Jump in Spain Could Lead to Criminal Charges, NYT, JUNE 28, 2017





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