I must start by making one thing...no, TWO things clear:
1. I am a half-assed copyeditor. I type fast, and make typing errors that I very often don't catch until well after I've hit the "Publish Now" button. Just one more reason I'll never be a "brand." Sue me. HOWEVER: Typos are not spelling errors.
2. When I rant about spelling & grammatical errors I'm not talking about your Facebook updates or personal emails. I'm not even really that concerned about personal pages and blogs. What sends me into apoplexy are the errors I find crawling through "professional" websites like ants at a picnic, the kind that seem to regularly make it past copyeditors on major internationally-read news sites and web magazines. So unless you write for or copy edit for one of them you are not the subject of this post and I love you dearly even if you do murder the written word on a daily basis.
I've considered making one day a week an official "Rant & Rave" day here at Barnmaven.com, but one of the many things I've discovered I lack as a blogger is the ability to maintain a regular (or coherent) schedule.
If, however, today were Rant & Rave Monday, it would be the perfect day to talk about words and what they mean and how words that sound the same mean very different things and how important it is to your audience that you use words in the proper context.
I read once that avid readers make better spellers, since the frequency with which we see words naturally increases our familiarity with the proper spelling and meaning of them. I can only apply this anecdotally to myself, since I fell in love with the printed word at the tender age of three and have only narrowly managed to escape reading my way into poverty by garnering incrementally better-paying employment every step of my career. If I didn't make what I make today, books & horses would have me filing bankruptcy a thousand times a thousand (Except they don't let you file that often, in which case I'd just be sitting under a mountain of debt and scrounging family dinners out of restauarant garbage cans or begging for change on freeway off-ramps).
If the digital media outlets I read are any indicator, the proofreading and copyediting professions are dying a very painful and slow death. Is it simply that the proliferation of written media has created an amplified venue for such errors, or is it an even worse situation in which the lack of professional editing creates a compounded situation where people read works with mistakes and proliferate those mistakes honestly because they trusted websites like The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal to present professionally written and edited articles? I mean, if the WSJ can't spell "depository" correctly, can ANYONE? Or when CNN's front page article says that "Conversationalists" aren't concerned about the environmental impact of golf balls in Loch Ness, should we dismiss it with a "hey, its a mistake anyone can make"? Sure, anyone can make that mistake; NOT everyone is writing headliness for one of the largest news outlets in the first world.
Is the deterioration of the ability to properly spell and to use words properly a natural phenomena? Am I simply unwilling to let go of an art that was doomed from its infancy? Maybe someone with a masters in linguistics could enlighten me, but until then, I vow to go down swinging.
Personally, I think that blogging itself and the mass proliferation of bloggers into media outlets has something to do with the problem. Many legitimate news outlets have recognized the value and power of the blogger's voice; however many also seem to be taking a pass at doing more than eyeballing submissions for spelling and grammatical errors. Hint: Huffpo, if you want your writers to be taken seriously, help them with their words. Please. When one of your bloggers writes about the "hoards of visitors" that came to see her new baby, I don't think she meant that she's hoarding the people who came by and perhaps saving them for a rainy day. I think you might have kindly told her that the word she was looking for was "hordes" and that one word is something that TLC has a regular show about and the other is the pillaging throng she probably thought she was referring to.
To another writer who was recently touched by a story in the news: It didn't strike a 'cord' with you unless you meant it hit the thing you pull your drapes with. The phrase you are reaching for is "struck a chord," because the metaphor is a musical reference.
And while I'm at it, Huffpo, please fire whoever is writing your front page top news story headlines. They make you sound like the National Enquirer. Half the time I wonder if you haven't been hacked by Anonymous and set up to sound like a third-rate gossip rag.
Writers, you really do have a reponsibility, if you are submitting work for consideration or writing because you are paid to, to ensure the clarity and accuracy of your words. Don't assume the media outlet is going to do a good job of editing your work; if you want to come across to your audience as a professional and a subject matter expert, you only help yourself by making sure your work is correct in its substance and its form. If you are not strong on spelling and grammar, do yourself a favor and hire a copyeditor who is. Pay them a few bucks per piece to make you look and sound as good as you'd like to.
What I do for a living, what I'm paid for, I must do well. I was hired for my expertise and experience in my field, and the people who pay me expect me to be the subject matter expert in my skillset. The same goes for those of you who make a living crafting with your words. Writers in digital and print media not only carry the responsibility of producing good work; you have an additional and not-small task to be the arbiters of our language. The words you produce will influence those who read them now and in the future. You are either helping to preserve good spelling and form or you are helping to destroy them.
I remember being young and reading so many words I'd never heard spoken aloud. On many occasions I would attempt to use them in conversation. Sometimes I'd get laughed at, but I truly appreciated those who made the effort to correct me. They saved me from much future embarassment. In the same spirit, I leave comments when I can for those writers who have erred, not to embarass you, but to save you from imprecision; may you now go forth and do the same for others.