English toffee misspelling

Are proofreading skills a social curse or valued asset?

jennisheppardBlog, Personal, Writing 2 Comments

For as long as I can remember, I have been cursed by the ability to spell freakishly well. I also have an almost abnormal ability to instantly spot mistakes in others’ spelling, punctuation and grammar.

It may seem more of a skill than a curse, but over the years, I’ve learned that the world really doesn’t care as much as I do about sterling spelling and appropriate apostrophes.

I actually enjoy, even relish this stuff. Which isn’t terribly cool in a world where misspellings seem to pass most people by.

Every day I am confronted with apparently obvious errors and it takes all my willpower not to point out every single mistake to those around me.

Oh to be able to sit in a restaurant and not notice they can’t even spell their menu correctly. I refer you to the brunch menu of the otherwise delicious Vancouver cafe, Abigail’s Party, which includes “mulitgrain” bread.

I’d love to receive an email without unconsciously scanning it for errors. VIFF VanCity Theatre, I’m looking at you and your recent newsletter, featuring the phrase “Back by Poular Demand!”

And as for scanning the BBC News website, there is not a day goes by that I don’t spot some error or typo, “Chinese disident” and “An rare portrait” being today’s examples.

@VanCanucks Coach V: “Daniel is continuing to follow protocal. He’s been skating for a few days and has been cleared to practice.”

On a personal level, my obsession with spelling also grates on those around me and from an early age, I learned to keep quiet unless asked for my opinion. I mean, who wants to have such basic flaws constantly pointed out?

But there is a limit to this approach. I remember as a child accompanying someone to a florist’s to buy a funeral wreath. On the attached card, they wrote “Rest in piece”. I said nothing, fearing repercussions. Turns out, that’s not cool either.

Don’t get me wrong, my obsession with accuracy has its benefits. I am a successful translator, proofreader and journalist partly because of my attention to detail and appreciation for the finer points of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

But am I really supposed to keep quiet in my everyday life, as the world’s spelling slides further and further into disrepair?

Is there some socially acceptable way of telling a waitress the menu is erroneous? Or informing a shopkeeper their signage is misspelt?

Perhaps it’s time to start giving out business cards wherever I see an errant apostrophe.



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