Thursday, December 9, 2010

"i" before "e" except after "c", is not a principle I abide.

I am a miserable speller. I simply cannot spell (over the course of reading this column, you could probably make a strong argument for my poor grammar as well, but that is NOT the focus of this article so please reserve your judgment). My fourth grade teacher, Mr. Ford, would be very disappointed to read this revelation, but I would also guess, he would not be surprised. You see, I was never a good speller. As far as my writing is concerned, one of the greatest inventions of all time is spell check. In fact, spell check has been made spelling so friendly that on my computer it not only highlights words that are misspelled, it also auto-corrects commonly misspelled words (a great example is that I just misspelled, misspelled and without deleting a letter, the computer fixed it for me – ignore the irony).

However, I just realized the lesson Mr. Ford attempted to teach me in fourth grade (it only took me 30 years, so what?), which is – sooner or later you need to know how to spell to avoid looking like a fool. To give you a tangible example from my life, I was recently writing a check for a bill and the amount was $14.71. Now I put that in numeric form in an effort to make a point (or at least give myself a weak excuse for my poor spelling ability), when writing that out on the check do you spell that fourteen or forteen? I know the answer because my spell check is underlining forteen, but if that is not correct, how do you spell 40? You probably know that you spell 40 as forty, but can you now understand my confusion; fourteen, but forty? Where did the “u” go?

To drive the point even further, I recently started a practice in my life that I call “Encouragement Efforts”. It was inspired by a good friend, but all this means is that I write a daily letter to someone I read or hear about that did something that deserves celebration or a challenge that needs encouragement. To make these letters more sincere, I typically hand write them. You see where I am going, don’t you? To my dismay, there is no spell check when you hand write a letter. I realized the “’i’ before ‘e’, except after ‘c’” is a rule I have trouble applying. So much so that I actually started avoiding the use of words like “receive” and “field” because I could not spell them correctly. How ridiculous is that?

What makes it worse is that the auto-correct feature on my computer I described earlier actually trains me to spell words incorrectly. What do I mean by that you ask? Well, out of habit, I spell “receive” as “recieve” as it doesn’t matter how I spell it on my computer because my software will simply auto-correct (in fact, I had to actually turn my auto-correct “off” for the sake of misspelling this word in this column). Therefore, I have trained my mind that spelling it, “recieve,” is actually correct. Can I blame technology? Can I simply say that technology, while is certainly has contributed to great advances in our society, has also served to make me dumber? I would like to abdicate responsibility and say, “Yes it does!”

So how does a guy who cannot spell get a column in the local newspaper? One word; spellcheck . . . or is that supposed to be two words . . . I don’t know. Mr. Ford, I apologize for not paying closer attention, now I understand.

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