Do Spelling Mistakes Matter? - Stephen Fry on Language Nazis

Do you get annoyed when you see spelling or punctuation errors? Do you go round correcting misspellings with a red pen? Or do you just tut? Do you write comments on blogs and in forums about people's misspellings?

People assume that I do because I'm interested in spelling, but I don't. Really, I don't! True, it makes me angry if I receive a sloppy letter from someone who is meant to be providing a service for me - like an estate agent or bank  - because it makes me think they may be sloppy in other ways too. Oh, and I do think teachers should edit their writing carefully too.

We all make mistakes sometimes and we don't always see them when editing. Yes, yes, we should use a spell-check but, hey, sometimes life's a bit short for that. And, really, there are worse crimes in the world than misspelling a word that seem to get a lot less aggressive criticism. It really is pitiful to read vicious attacks on other people's spelling - attacks so badly written that they are full of spelling mistakes of the aggressor's own.

Anyway, this is a preamble to this wonderful video I have just come across of Stephen Fry agreeing with me! And it's a beautiful example of 'kinetic typography' by Matthew Rogers.

As Fry says, sometimes people DO need to spell and grammar (there, I've verbified a noun!) properly and that's why I do what I do. If you lack spelling knowledge or strategies and this creates an obstacle in job applications or exams then something needs to be done.

So watch, enjoy and comment below! Do you agree with Stephen Fry? And me?

Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography - Language from Matthew Rogers on Vimeo.
I originally found this here.


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  1. Very nice video Johanna. I'm with you both.

  2. I've only just found your blog. So sorry I missed your session in October. I'm teaching an adult Arab who has to get 6.5 IELTS, who struggles with writing but could get a really good listening score except for the spelling. We need all the help we can get! Will follow your blog with interest.

  3. Hi clairewood

    It was situations just like yours that got me into this spelling lark. Penalising spelling errors in IELTS Listening is so unfair ,isn't it? Anyway I do find that visual methods work well with a lot of my Arab learners. I'm hoping to do the spelling session that I did at The Language Show at IATEFL next April - so if you're coming to Brighton...

    Good luck.

  4. Hmmm. I was worried that I might be a grammar Nazi but, on reflection, I am in the same camp as you and Mr Fry. I do like spotting badly worded signs but, aside from possibly taking a photo, I leave it at that. I don't write to Anne Robinson.

    Incidentally I have just been teaching Arabs in Riyadh, and they do seem to appreciate visual methods.