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Study shows more than half of Americans are bad spellers

Kevin Castle • Feb 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM

In a survey conducted last month of 2,000 U.S. adults, one out of four said they have a problem with everyday spelling. After a spelling test was administered, those estimations were proven w-r-o-n-g.

Results released Tuesday by the Spelling Society, which has lobbied for spelling reform in the United Kingdom and the United States, presented evidence for reform by showing well over 50 percent of Americans and Brits earn low marks on a spelling test made up of everyday words such as “accidentally” and “friend.”

“The results proved that over half the population are unable to spell common words like ‘embarrassed,’” the study’s executive summary said. “Sixty-three percent of U.S. citizens believe that adult spelling is worse now than it was 10 years ago.”

The study also revealed that men are consistently worse spellers than women.

Rye Cove High School English instructor Christy Head says her students’ problems with spelling words are minimal in reports, tests and other required work, but she did point out one word that she constantly has to correct: “definitely.”

“For some reason, they all want to spell it with an A instead of with an I,” said Head. “For the most part, they spell pretty well. I don’t have much of a problem with spelling, and I don’t go over it very much because it’s just those few words.”

“Definitely” was one of the 10 words given on the Spelling Society test. Seventy-two percent of the test takers got that word right.

Society members and Professor Edward Baranowski say the English language is long overdue for an overhaul because spelling and pronunciation used now still connect with the development of the words that date back to the 13th to 15th centuries.

Some common misspellings today are intentional and tied to text messaging and the abbreviated words texters use. These words are beginning to creep into homework, reports and tests, according to Head, and she stresses the importance of proper punctuation and spelling before handing out every assignment at the Scott County school.

“I stress formal language versus informal language. When you are writing something for an assignment, that is a time to be formal, so you have to use standard, correct English,” said Head.

“(Shortened or abbreviated words) used in texting has shown up on some things, and we have had a problem with it. One thing I’ve noticed that they are prone to use the letter ‘U’ instead of the word ‘you.’ We just keep telling them that the proper spelling and form has to be used.”