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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Spelling And Intelligence

     In August 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an order from his summer residence in Oyster Bay, New York, that would soon be the talk of Washington—and the world beyond. 
     Addressing himself to the government printer, Roosevelt decreed that all documents issued by the White House should now follow the spellings advocated by an organization known as the Simplified Spelling Board. 
     Launched the previous March and financed by the steel baron Andrew Carnegie, the board wanted to strip the American language of its antiquated British baggage and create a clean and modern version for the 20th century. Read the rest of the story… 

     In in New Jersey in 1992 former Vice President Dan Quayle visited a school and confidently told a student who had written "potato" on the blackboard that it was spelled “potatoe.” 
    When Harvard granted an LL.D. to Andrew Jackson in 1833, John Quincy Adams boycotted the graduation ceremonies, calling Jackson ''a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar.'' To which Jackson replied: ''It is a damn poor mind indeed which can't think of at least two ways to spell any word.''
     Sarah Palin made up the word “refudiate” (she meant refute) and President George W. Bush invented the word “misunderestimate.” And, once I even convinced a college graduate that “snow” was spelled “snoe.” 
     In his tweets President Trump insists that he is a genius, but some insist his spelling errors contradict the claim. Add to that the declaration by his detractors that he speaks at a fourth-grade level, lower than any of the last 15 presidents, and it’s claimed that is “proof” he’s not a genius. Politics aside, I know some of his detractors and think he has to speak at a fourth-grade level in an attempt to get them to understand him, but no matter. It turns out that spelling ability and vocabulary aren't necessarily barometers of someone's overall intelligence.
     Everyone has difficulty with spelling from time to time and many spelling errors these days are the result of people’s poor typing skills and simply not checking what they wrote. 
     Spelling is something we do only in writing and is something that we store in the brain as procedural knowledge. This means it becomes automatic only after a person builds up extensive contact through repeated exposure to a word in reading and writing. Some people might have certain words they always mix up because they never learned the correct spelling, or because they wrote them incorrectly and now can’t tell the right from the wrong version. 
     Researchers from the University of Grenoble Alpes asked 536 professional recruiters to evaluate different job applications and found that poor spelling was just as detrimental to a candidate's chances as having insufficient work experience. Applicants that meet every selection criteria for the job, including education and work experience, were rejected because of a couple of typos. 
     Even with today's word processing spell checkers, as long as a word is spelled correctly using the wrong word won't be caught.  I can also attest to the fact that sometimes no matter how carefully one checks a document for grammar and spelling errors they will sometimes slip through. In my working days when we produced engineering drawings we always had someone else check them...it was a rule of thumb that you can't check your own drawings...too often you simply won't catch even the simplest error.  Same thing with your own writing.
     The perception is that people who can't spell are ignorant, illiterate or stupid, but research shows that there is no significant association between spelling ability and intelligence. 
     It’s true! In his youth Albert Einstein was considered intellectually impaired because he couldn't spell. And, he wasn’t the only one. Check out this list of 15 famous intellectuals who couldn’t spell, including that beloved president John F. Kennedy. 

15 Famous Thinkers Who Couldn’t Spell

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