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I’ve published five critically acclaimed novels, hold a minor in English, and have worked in newspaper for nearly 27 years, writing thousands of stories, some of which have won top awards in the state. However, with all of that being said, I have a deep, dark secret that only a few select individuals know about. I can’t spell.
Granted, I’m good with “dog” and “cat” and words like that, but when you start getting into the words one can’t phonically sound out, I’m lost. But why shouldn’t I be?
The English language is made up of a cornucopia of words that have no rhyme or reason, bastardized out of countless foreign tongues and thrown into our vocabulary like a literary salad. Rules? They don’t need no stinking rules when it comes to English. Sure, your teacher will tell you there are rules, but you don’t have to go far until those rules are broken at the whim of whomever wrote the book. You know, “G” as in “gnat” and “P” as in pneumonia. It’s so simple.
My shortcomings became self-apparent Monday night as I was covering the Southern Standard’s annual spelling bee at the middle school. I’ve always been fascinated how kids can pull the spelling of words right out of the air. And, not only must they know how to spell the words, memorize every silly rule in the English language and then know when to ignore the rule, but they also have to put up with the pressure of having to spell the words in front of judges and the audience.
Am I smarter than a fifth-grader? Nope. Not when it comes to spelling (and likely not when it comes to math either). I sat there as the words were given out, silently trying to spell them in my head. Then, my silent spelling was proven wrong when the words were correctly spelled by the fourth- through eighth-grade students who were participating in the bee.
So how does one become a successful writer despite not having the ability to spell worth a darn? Two things: spellcheck and editors.
As you will notice while reading this article, my spelling is impeccable. However, if the truth be known, I hadn’t the slightest of how to spell impeccable. It actually took me a couple of tries just to get it close enough where spellcheck could even determine what I was trying to spell. My original attempt included a “k” and other letters that aren’t contained in the correct spelling of the world.
Editors are a godsend for people like me. I’m a very good writer, even if I say so myself, but I would have never published a word without the help of good editors. They make my work … readable. Without that critical eye, reading a Duane Sherrill article or R.D. Sherrill novel would be like cracking a code due to the numbers of misspelled words (yes, spell check caught “misspelled” just now) in my writing.
So, if you’re like me and have lots of big ideas in your head but haven’t a clue of how to spell them, befriend an editor and make sure to activate autocorrect on your phone.
Standard reporter Duane Sherrill can be reached at 473-2191.