I’ve always been a sub-par speller.

I tend to blame a traumatic second-grade school year, but I’m sure it is also at least partly due to some hard-wired deficiency on my part.

Poor spelling is a hinderance to a writer, and I have improved over the years, but there are still a number of words that I regularly misspell. Counselor is one. Privileged is one I have to slow way down to get right. I still rely on rhythm to spell to mo rr ow.

The “ie” or “ei” words always make me doubt, even when I get them right. The old saw, “I before E except after C” is great, except it doesn’t work. (See, “deficiency” above…where I STILL goes before E, even after C.)

So What?

In this age of computers and word processors, who cares, right? Every time I type a bum word, the computer underlines it (or, just goes ahead and automatically corrects it) and that’s a wonderful thing, in a way. It does help me quickly identify and correct the errors I often make. It has, even, helped me to un-learn the wrong ways I’ve spelled certain words.

I also practice and advocate the “don’t stop to be perfect” theory of drafting, so that even though I still draft most of my written words longhand, on lined paper, I do not labor over spelling and punctuation in the early drafts.

And, since I am no longer in school or sitting for tests on a regular basis where I must write essays which will be graded, at least in part, on proper spelling and punctuation, I’m not really suffering any major consequences for my spelling faults.

But I did realize ONE way all of this “covering up” of my spelling errors has short-changed me.

I’m no longer Porky Pig.

Using the Porky Pig method of spelling was a coping mechanism in the pre-auto-correct era, but I think it also helped me think through synonyms, and was, therefore, a positive practice.
Using the Porky Pig method of spelling was a coping mechanism in the pre-auto-correct era, but I think it also helped me think through synonyms, and was, therefore, a positive practice.

Oink, Oink, Baby

What am I talking about?

Back in 1995 (I think, I’m getting too old to be sure) I sat for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Part of the test was a written essay. This was just one of a long-list of similar essays I had written, but at that time, to my way of thinking, it was the most important one I had ever written. It could make or break me, in my future law career. (You’ll notice, I never actually had a law career, but it wasn’t because I didn’t ace the LSAT…that is, alas, a different story.)

It was important to me, and I attacked that essay the way I had attacked every other one: I used my higher-than-average writing abilities to craft a solid argument (I always want to put an extra E in that one) and I modified any words of which I was unsure of their spelling by selecting a synonym that I was confident I could spell correctly.

I’ve heard this referred to as Porky Pigging It. (“Referred” is a word I misspelled for YEARS.)

Our cartoon hero, Pork Pig, had a speech issue, and when he would get stuck on a word, he’d find a synonym he could pronounce. So he might get stuck stuttering on the word, “job,” and say something like, “I have a good jo..a good jo…a good CAREER.”

And that’s exactly what I would do when I was writing an essay.

Now, I no longer do that. Which means I no longer search for synonyms on the fly and when I DO look for synonyms I often rely not on my own mind and experience, but on an online thesaurus. I don’t give my brain that exercise of replacing a problem word with something else.

And, I think that’s effected my recall. I find myself searching for words when speaking to classes or groups. I snap my fingers and say, “What’s a word that means something like repaying or paying a penalty…begins with a P, I’m pretty sure…I should know this…You know the one I mean…”

All of which sounds much less knowledgeable (that’s a word I always spell wrong) than poor Porky’s stuttering.

Is there anything that you’ve noticed about yourself which is a change brought on by technology or changing methods of approaching your creative work? I’d love to hear some…

Sometimes, I Need to Porky Pig It