Spelling Counts

If you think that your days of worrying about spelling ended with grade school, think again. I suspect there are a lot of adults who probably hide their ineptitude for spelling with bad handwriting. Doctors have always been accused of that, but that’s most likely a function of speed. That’s what I blame my own lousy writing on – trying to scribble things too fast. I’m certain it started in college with note taking. But back to spelling.

Thomas Hurley III, a Connecticut 12-year-old and “Kids Jeopardy!” contestant, learned a hard and expensive lesson about spelling. He misspelled the correct answer in Final Jeopardy. Emancipation had an extra syllable: emancipTation. Alex ruled against him. He wagered $3,000 of his $9,600. Hurley told The New-Times of Danbury that he was cheated and upset. Furor on both sides ensued. Jeopardy defended the ruling.

In attempting to find the rules for Jeopardy (specifically correct spelling in Final Jeopardy), I found another blog, the writer of which went to greater lengths than I would have to draw a conclusion (The Official Final Jeopardy Spelling Rules). It seems the conclusion is that as long as a misspelling in Final Jeopardy doesn’t phonetically alter the pronunciation, the judges will accept it. Hurley’s spelled version didn’t pass that test.

Whether or not you think Alex Trebek and Jeopardy judges should have given the kid a pass and let the mistake slide, doesn’t matter. The lesson is that spelling counts. You are judged by it. Your words create your online presence in the same way that your wardrobe says something about you when you leave the house. If your customers or clients would be put off if you showed up in grungy sweats and a stained t-shirt, they’ll likely be put off by written communication peppered with spelling or grammar errors. You can’t blame it on spell checker or Siri, unless you don’t care about being perceived as lazy.

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