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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Does bad spelling annoy you?

Because of my interest in the preferred Australian English spelling, I receive alerts about articles on spelling. One popped into my email recently with the subject, "Does bad spelling annoy you?" I recognised the site as it was a survey site I'd reviewed earlier in the year. This was a question posted by a member of the group and from what I can see, is usually done simply for a bit of fun.

For a bit of fun I decided to post the same question and selection of answers to a business group I participate in that is administered by the Victorian government. The group is in theory composed of business people. The survey group I'm not sure of, but it would be a cross section of the population. The survey group are unlikely to be business people as when they do a survey, the reward is equivalent to $2-$2.50 per hour. The survey people are more likely people who have time on their hands and do it for a bit of fun, socialising and perhaps a desire to contribute. We can't rule out all workers, because someone who has time on their hands at work, with access to a computer, could effectively add 10% to their income whilst being paid to work. So nothing is certain except the group are members of the survey site.

A conclusion from the two different sample groups we can reach is that business people are more concerned about spelling than the survey group at 88% to 73%. Interestingly as well, more people don't care about good spelling in the survey group than the business group at 20% to 10%.

The survey site answers were:

Respondents: 59

Yes: 73%
No: 7%
Don't care: 20%

Male: 32%
Female: 68%

Under 18: 4%
18-39: 32%
35-54: 37%
55+: 27%

The business Facebook group

Respondents: 59

Yes: 88%
No: 1%
Don't care: 10%
(Total not 100% due to rounding down in each answer.)

Male: 37%
Female: 63%

For those who are interested, over the years I've asked various people about the importance of spelling. When I asked a few primary teachers the answer was not important. When I asked a year 11/12 teacher the response was not that important as it is worth only a few marks. My observation of tertiary is people are being marked more on spelling as there's been feedback on people losing marks.

The year 11/12 response concerns me. A few marks at the higher end could make a significant difference as to the course a person gets entry to. I understand the primary teachers response because the focus appears to be on overall learning to not focusing as much on the detail, which I suspect improves over time, but that's just my opinion without foundation.

The response to this type of survey will vary considerably according to the survey group, but it does show overall, that people do place some level of importance on good spelling. In the business world it becomes more important.

I do however wonder how much difference it does make in the real world. Would you not buy those avocados because the sign said avocado's, and would poor spelling in a real estate ad stop your from buying that million dollar property? I suspect the answer is no, it would make no difference. However if you received a quote or a resume with bad spelling then that could have an impact. It really depends greatly on the situation. To be annoyed is one thing, but to act differently is another.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.

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