Thursday, August 18, 2016

Spell Check Ruined Me

I used to be so good.

I used to receive happy faces, stars, A's and even E's ... remember E's?

I guess you could say I was "excellent."

My spelling throughout grammar school was really good, even though I wasn't an avid reader and even though I'd get confused with those tests with exercises displaying four misspelled words alongside one correctly spelled, where we had to pick the right one. I mean, what was that about? Surviving that mind-bender, I also spelled well in high school and college. I even knew the very vital difference between "its" and "it's" and "there" and "their." I was on the school paper in high school. I was also an editor on the college paper "The Daily 49er." I had it going on.

Then along came spell check. The son of a bitch.

It arrived, of course, with the word processing programs, showing us the easy pathway to spelling all words correctly. The computer programs were even set up so that if a word was misspelled, a red squiggly line would underscore it. All life looked bright and cheery, especially for us writers. Never again would a mishap befall us with a wretched misspelled word.

But what has happened over the years as I have been supported so strongly with my spelling ability? Has it made me a better speller, a better writer? No, I have gotten lazy and sloppy. I have become one of the worst spellers out there. I have rested so heavily on the red squiggly lines and even the faithful auto-correct, that I've come to the point now that I'll just throw a bunch of letters out there like a bucket of paint onto a porch. At first I hold out for the auto-correct to clean up my mess, and then if that doesn't fix it, I next rely on the red squiggly line wherein I can right-click and "search a word" in order to grab the correct one. This spell checker functionality comes to save the day!

But wait a minute! Save the day? What am I? Some slacker who can't do things on my own? Some bully who has someone else do my term paper? Some immature king who needs a bunch of slaves to do my grunt work? Some kid who needs a maid to come behind me and pick up my dropped clothes? Some lazy litterbug who can't take care of my own trash?

That's what happens when you have OTHER people do things for you, or when you have to rely on some other system to do what you could be doing with your own skill and effort. What happens over time is you lose the functionality yourself. You lose the abilities, the drive and the motivation to grow and expand.

If someone or something will do it for us, why would we even try? 

It makes me think of all the other places where we have other people do things for us, when we could be empowered and uplifted to do them ourselves:
  • The home owners who hire the gardener instead of planting the flowers themselves. 
  • The "shadow artist" who hides his or her own creative gifts behind the support of another artist.
  • The street beggar who would rather ask for a free handout than look for ANY sort of job.
  • The trickster citizen who "works the system" by trying to get free government handouts rather than being a contributing member of society.
That damn spell checker.  It ruined me. It got me soft and lazy. I lost my edge. I lost my precision with my writing. And to think, even with spell check, sometimes "positivity" becomes "pomposity," a word completely the opposite of what I was intending. 

In conclusion, what can we take away from this article, besides the fact that the analogies in Jim's head make sense if you really think about them? First off: beware of auto-correct and the red squiggly line - they are not always 100 percent right. Two: You can give yourself your own happy faces, stars and E's when you reflect honestly about your own performance. Three: having things done for you and getting free shit may cost you in the long run.

And finally: maybe the easy way isn't always the best way.

James Anthony Ellis is a writer and producer living in Lemon Grove, CA. He can be reached at where most things are spelled right.

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