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does spelling matter?

You may recall a few months ago I mused on the value of spelling bees. C|Net recently reported on a Nickelodeon study that indicates a growing perceived lack of importance of spelling:

"As a result, technology is driving a shift in behaviors at home. The study showed that, thanks to the Internet, a quarter of parents believe it's no longer necessary to spell well, reference printed dictionaries, or read the newspaper. Kids ages 8 to 14 agreed in slightly lesser percentages (an average of one-fifth) about the usefulness of spelling well, dictionaries and newspapers, except when it came to printed maps. About 20 percent of parents, versus 21 percent of kids, said they no longer need to know how to read a geographic map."

To relate this to some of my recent activities, I cringe whenever I see a job posting for a "Principle Software Engineer". It's not just an occasional thing. But does it matter? One could make the argument that when people are reading these ads, the meaning of "principle" is obvious in this context. But what if someone is searching for that type of job?

I took a sample of the number of query results for "principle software engineer" vs. "principal software engineer" (quotes included) at the "Big 4" search engines just to see how often the former gets a listing as a percentage of all results for both queries:

Ask 11.7%
Google 14.4%
MSN 7.3%
Yahoo! 9.2%

While this isn't a scientific study, it suggests that people who use the spelling that's generally considered correct may be missing out on a substantial number of openings. So maybe it does matter ...


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2007 01:57 pm (UTC)
The way your post is worded, it suggests that 90 percent or so of the ads are looking for a "principle software engineer". That's not what you meant.
Jan. 26th, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC)
from some of the applications I get, I can see that parents have not considered spelling important.

I just don't get it. and, I know this is a trend, because if I'm really needing some info, I will sometimes misspell a word on purpose so I can get more results.
Jan. 27th, 2007 11:05 am (UTC)
A principle software engineer sounds like someone who'd be revising your wetware. I'm not sure I'd even want to meet someone like that, let alone do the job.

On a more serious note, I'm one of those who believe that spelling and grammar matter in any form of writing. I have no problem with the usage of standard abbreviations, but it sets my teeth on edge when I read L337.
Jan. 28th, 2007 07:09 am (UTC)
Careful ... I have readers who are l33t5p34k0rz ...

In reality, languages evolve, and who's to say that some aspects of l33t won't be commonplace someday? I guess what I'm trying to say is that we're doing a disservice to people (especially kids) if we play up the value of spelling bees to the point where they're struggling to memorize obscure medical terminology (such as was done in Akeelah and the Bee).

Jan. 28th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
I certainly agree that languages evolve, and eventually anyone fervently demanding unyielding standards is fighting a rearguard action at best. However, such changes don't usually happen that quickly. While I meant no real offense to the l33t5p34k0rz among your readers, if someone misuses a reflexive object pronoun in an obsequious (and futile) attempt to sound erudite, I'm going to scream. Silently. :-)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )