I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not an apology or admission of guilt. I am stating a fact: my brain does not spell. I have two master’s degrees and a PhD, and my brain still does not spell. It is good with common words, such as the ones that comprise this paragraph, but add some complexity and my brain retires to its “happy place” and surrenders, forcing me to rely on spellcheck.
I suppose I could assume an arrogant stance and claim that my mind is full of more important notions, leaving me no time to focus on such trivial matters. But that would be a lie. Let me repeat, my brain does not spell.
It is true that dyslexia runs in the family, and when I am tired I switch letters and numbers, but that seems to be a weak excuse, designed to garner sympathy or suggestions for improvement. The truth is that I read quickly and with strong comprehension, but if I attempt to simultaneously talk and write on a board the words will be phonetic, and perhaps lack vowels in some poor imitation of Hebrew.
Understand that I live in a world based on measures and assessment with high value placed on spelling and grammar. In fact, while we excuse many professors from understanding math, woe to the individual who fails to spell. How interesting that my abilities with budgets, my understanding of calculus and differential equations, and my degree in a hard science do not make up for being spelling challenged. My colleagues, however, can easily wave their hand at a sheet of numbers and proudly state that numbers are not their strong suit.
Frankly, it seems highly limiting to believe that there is only one correct way to spell a word (think grey and gray) or only one way to apply the meaning of that word (when can I use tenor?). Language has been evolving since Ugaritic times. Perhaps I am just an evolutionary catalyst, pushing words to grow and expand.
I predicted spell check many years ago, but am still waiting for a pen equally equipped. That way I won’t have to stop in the middle of a handwritten note and google the spelling of a word. This of course similarly applies to grammar. My incorrect spelling is often more of a grammatical quirk. The word is spelled correctly, but according to my colleagues, is used inappropriately.
So perhaps the real issue is that I cannot proofread. The words look fine to me. They seem to flow in some elegant formula that evokes emotional responses. The words invite and pull and seduce and dance until the reader is thinking in new ways. Who cares if a letter is misplaced or a word is a bit misaligned or out of place.
I easily grade student papers and assure that tenses and voices and words align appropriately and the paper smoothly communicates concepts. But ask me to proof my work for mistakes and my brain is useless. However, ask me to synthesize data and apply it to develop an innovative strategy for organizational change or growth, and I excel. The same is true if I am asked to demonstrate creative applications of inductive and deductive reasoning. Give me difficult organizational corundum to untangle and or Gordian knot to cut, and I will amaze you.
Due to this brain deficiency I have been deemed disingenuous (you clearly are lying about proof-reading this!) and reduced to tears by advisors and colleagues. If only I struggled with math everyone would understand, pat me on the back, and reveal their own secret struggle with budgets or notions of quantum physics. But in the end I will be judged on my spelling, much like famous poor spellers Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie. Cleary I have to unashamedly and unapologetically join this tribe of poor-spellers anonymous.
Dr. Elisa Robyn, a modern-day Renaissance educator and leader, is the author of The Way of the Well, a spiritual romance, and Pirate Wisdom, lessons in leadership. Her eclectic career positions include geologist, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Futurist, and Innovative Mojo Coach. Currently, Elisa is an executive director at Regis University. She holds a Masters degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her most current writings can be found at https://www.ElisaRobyn.com