Saturday, November 19, 2011

Spelling is Correct

People have trouble spelling my name. It's the phonetic Spanish form of a very common English name, so many people often assume there is an extra silent H in it. When I was a kid, I got to correct lots of adults about it. There was a point in my life when I really hated the name Christine, because that was what the grown-ups usually wrote. It was mainstream. It was how everyone spelled it. It also was not my name. It reminds me of a line from the first episode of the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The new doctor mispronounces the android Data's name. She is amused that it bothers him. Data tells her, "One is my name, the other is not." Names are important.

I learned it was easier to spell it out after I gave my name rather than have to watch the grown-ups erase their mistake or worse, scribble out the misspelling. Scratching out the H left my name with this odd gap between the C and the other letters. Sometimes the A at the end of my name was a transformed E. I turned this into a game. I could tell who was actually listening to me by watching whether they carefully followed my spelling or just quickly wrote down their own assumption. This is not simply about listening, but about being sensitive to a fellow human being.

This is something that bothers me when I see articles about homeschooling written by journalists and other writers outside the homeschooling community. They can't seem to believe that the word "homeschooling" is correct. In fact, I read one article in a local paper (I apologize, this was a while ago and I misplaced the clipping) where the reporter placed the [sic] symbol after each spelling of homeschooling in a quote he used from a homeschooler's email. The email was written to decline an interview request. The symbol was not used to inform readers, but rather to mock the homeschooler's spelling. It was also used for two words that were mispelled in the email.

I don't deny that there are many of us who are very elitist about spelling. Recent comments to a NY Times magazine article about homeschooling caused many in the homeschooling blog community to throw grammatical stones at the poorly written responses by unenlightened teenagers. Many of those letters were so alike that it was clear they were written as part of a class project. I feel worse that none of these students seemed to take the time to research homeschooling or read other comments from actual homeschoolers instead of simply parroting their class discussion. It is important to understand the opposing view to effectively argue your perspective. I had a hard time believing that many of the students who commented had an opinion. They were simply writing what they thought their teacher wanted to hear.

If I read any article that spells homeschooling as "home schooling" or "home-schooling", I take a deep breath and prepare myself for what will follow. I know the reporter would rather rely on spell-check than pick up an up-to-date dictionary. You don't even need a physical dictionary handy. Here are links online:

The Free Dictionary:
Oxford Dictionaries:

Misspelling something as important as the name tells me that little research was done within the homeschooling community. It tells me an opinion was formed from the onset and the reporter would rather tell readers what he or she thinks they want to hear. And believe me, I understand! It's hard to learn about homeschooling. Homeschoolers are individuals. No two are educating their children in the same way. There is no standard way to do it. It's that freedom that attracted me to it. But try explaining that to a reporter.

I don't mind the misspellings of my name anymore. Now I look to see who can figure it out without me noting the error. Having homeschooled for a while, I know that pointing out mistakes doesn't really teach as much as recognizing and fixing your own mistakes. I'm still waiting for the journalists to learn that.


christinethecurious said...

I'm such a poor speller, that I've adopted home schooling in my writing because it makes the spell check happy - it must be right.

Well no more. You are right. I may need to ask my husband if I meant loose or lose, or straight or strait, but that doesn't mean the spell check is always right.

I never spelled chemical names anyhow, so why would I religh on it now?

jugglingpaynes said...

LOL! See, spell-check does have its place, but as with anything else, it is limited by our own knowledge. That's why we have other resources to check ourselves. Spell-check has never helped me know if I was causing an effect or an affect, and it doesn't care if I write "its" when I mean "it's." It also doesn't agree with how I spell the name of the town I live in!
By the way, Christine, I don't hate that name anymore. Just so you know. :o)

Sandra said...

Actually I think the reporter was following their newspaper's standard. Every newspaper has a stylebook. The one that I follow is the AP (Associated Press) stylebook. In that stylebook homeschooling words are defined thus, home-school (v.), home-schooler (n.), home-schooled (adj.), and home schooling (n.).

Personally I prefer homeschooling and that is what I use on my blog, but if I were to write an article for a newspaper or magazine I would use the AP standard and allow the newspaper or magazine to change it to the standard that they use. There are many, many different stylebooks available and some newspapers, like my university's newspaper, that have their own stylebooks that aren't available to purchase.

Also, it may not have been the reporter that did the actual correction, often an editor will add or take things out of an article.


jugglingpaynes said...

Wow, I never realized that Sandra! Thank you for teaching me something new. So this means we have to work on getting newspapers to change their stylebooks. It just seems to me that a movement that has been around for decades should be allowed to have their term be accepted in at least some of the newspapers' stylebooks, don't you think? Who do I write to? :o)

Sandra said...

Well, stylebooks do change. The Associated Press prints one every year. The problem is there isn't any one stylebook that every newspaper uses. Several larger publishers, like the Chicago Press, also print stylebooks. I think the best way to make a change would be to contact your local newspaper(s). Especially if they are running a story on homeschooling. Write letters to the editor, contact the reporter, if it is a larger section contact the Education Editor. A lot of reporters are happy to change a word or two, but you have to remember that the editor is the one who gets the final say, and even if one editor agrees that doesn't mean that it will stay that away if the editor is replaced.

CSPeterson said...

I wrote my master’s thesis on homeschoolers and mathematics. I found that homeschoolers and those who research homeschooling had not yet standardized how to spell it, at least in Canada, the US and Great Britain in 2007. I always spelled what we were doing homeschooling, but then I’m a notoriously bad speller. I thought that article you linked to was very interesting. The writer seemed still of two minds about her early homeschooling experience as a child. She seems to imply that there were only two choices: laissez faire unschooling or the serious, often violent, peer pressure of 70’s style public education to fit in with current Hollywood marketing. It sounds like she’s still kind of miffed at her mom and dad for both even though she and her siblings are four interesting adults who seem to be finding their way just fine.

jugglingpaynes said...

CSPeterson: All the years I've known you, I never thought of you as a bad speller! Spelling is actually one of those things I've come to decide is a talent, like a gift for math or art. It comes fairly easy to my girls, but it has been a struggle for my son. It's why I didn't concern myself as much about the technical issues with comments. And even I have been known to forget a letter or use the wrong homophone. Thank you all for your thoughts about this!

Angie said...

I love the Spanish spelling for Cristina. There are so many ways to spell your name that it would be common courtesy to ask which spelling is appropriate.

As a bit of a spelling snob, I am pleased to hear that homeschooling is a legitimate spelling. Would that my spell check knew that, not to mention newspaper style guides...

~*~The Family~*~ said...

The home school home-school thing bugs me too. We have an odd last name that is spelled just as it sounds. I have found over the years to say it and, then without any hesitation, spell it out for people, they are going to ask anyway. People can never pronounce it either, including my own dad!

seekingmyLord said...

Like that last paragraph, Cristina!

Frankly, I just don't even like the term "homeschool" at all, because it has the word "school" in it. I just think that gives people the wrong impression about how home education works, but it is a well-establish, well-recognized term so...well, I just try to go with it.

As to writing, because I have written many published health-related articles, I always say that even the best writers have editors for good reason. I have edited works by other people, but editing my own is like doing brain surgery on myself or being a lawyer representing himself and having a fool for a get the picture. Having another set of eyes on the work is always best.

I have reread my own blog posts many times, but the brain fills in the mistakes, unless reading it weeks later, perhaps. I have found plenty of mistakes in my writing when reading older posts, embarrassingly obvious ones. (I probably have mistakes in this comment!) That is why I tend not to dissect what others write in blogs or on message boards, but try to understand what they meant to write.

Now if someone has written about grammar and used bad grammar in the process...I just might have issues with that. I have found many public school teachers, particularly at the elementary level to have the poorest of grammar. One even argued with me that say "me and him" in the subjective case was acceptable in some cases. I have NEVER found "Me and him went to the store" to be correct grammar and yet all the people around 30 and under in my family who were educated in public schools and in differing parts of the country talk and write like that...and most never use paragraphs either!

jugglingpaynes said...

seekingmyLord: It's so funny you should mention about why we have others edit us. I had my entire family and some friends look through the proof of my book before my mother spotted a glaring error on the back cover! And my daughters STILL didn't see the error until I had Marina read it out loud. It's amazing how some errors hide in plain sight!

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