Does Spelling Matter?

From The Guardian:

Inglourious-Basterds-film-008He begins with some remarks on the social stigma that is so often attached to misspelling. To this purpose he quotes the 18th-century diplomat Lord Chesterfield, who described secure orthography as “absolutely necessary” and recalled “a man of quality, who never recovered [from] the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the w”. In the eyes of Chesterfield, who advocated hyper-attentiveness in all social situations, dropping a w was as bad as dropping a baby. Chesterfield's attitude was only an embellished version of common prejudice. A good command of spelling is generally regarded as evidence of a tidy mind. Meanwhile people who are poor at spelling are treated as if they are stupid, whatever the evidence to the contrary, and are also suspected of not knowing they can't spell. Horobin notices that iffy spelling is “often viewed as a reflection of a person's …morality”. It's true that we see other people's wayward spelling as evidence of other forms of waywardness. A covering letter that concludes “I look foward to herring from you shorty” isn't going to enhance its author's job prospects. You may well be reluctant to buy a “labtop computer” or “emrold necklus” on eBay, to eat in a café that advertises a “vaggie special”, or to accept the blandishments of a company whose mailshot mangles the spelling of your name.

Horobin recalls that Tony Blair, when prime minister, misspelled tomorrow three times in a single document. For fear lest Blair be mocked, spin doctors claimed that his “toomorrow” was not in fact an error but merely a quirk of his flamboyant penmanship. Inevitably, too, Horobin mentions Dan Quayle, the 44th vice president of the United States and occasional purveyor of memorable gaffes. In 1992 Quayle was widely ridiculed for correcting a 12-year-old New Jersey schoolboy's spelling of potato – “You've almost got it … but it has an e on the end.” It was bad enough that Quayle didn't know how to spell potato, yet his graver offence was amending the efforts of someone who did – an act that seemed a symptom of a larger misplaced confidence.

More here.