I often hear it said that in this day and age of computer technology with spell check and grammar check, it is not necessary to have a good command of spelling or grammar. The argument is extended to suggesting that you can always pay someone to edit your work for you. I find this a disturbing trend because it encourages sloppiness and laziness.
How you present yourself through the spoken or written word tells the audience a lot about you ‘ your level of self-esteem, your professionalism, your educational standard, your attention to detail and your attitude towards your audience. Why wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward?
Most of the people reading this article will be teachers, the majority of whom have exemplary spoken and written skills. But how often do we read articles or even promotional materials on visiting speakers where the grammatical and spelling errors are abundant? For me, it is frequent.
Plenty of highly successful people in the world are not university educated. Some have not even completed their high school certificates, but ALL of them are well read, certainly in their field. They may well have others writing copy for them ‘ politicians, for example – but there are always times when they are interviewed, when they need to address a public or in-house audience and that’s when we see the real person.
We may have become a highly sophisticated, highly technologically advanced society, but at the end of the day, we command the highest respect when we communicate well. This means that whether through the spoken or written word, the audience feels valued and respected. You don’t have to have the specialised skills of a speech-writer, journalist, professional speaker or author in order to speak or write well. Indeed, in professional writing you should ALWAYS engage an editor and proof-reader because you are so inside your own work that you can’t see your own mistakes, but that’s a different issue.
As teachers, encourage children to use dictionaries, to write regularly and to ask others for help with spelling. After years and years of regular practice, the skills start to develop. Not everyone will study Arts or Law at university so their skills may not be in language, and many may not go to university at all, but that’s no reason not to emphasise the importance of having good grammar.
When I’m not writing articles and books or running PD sessions, I teach foreign students ESL (English as a Second Language). In the writing or speaking class I always tell them the KISS principle ‘ Keep It Simple Sunshine. I recommend you teach your children the same thing (with age appropriate language, of course). Little children love using ‘big’ words. They love the sound of the words, how they roll around the tongue. They love the sophistication and the length of the words. Encourage this. Encourage them to write. Long live the simple sentence. Be careful of over correcting their work as this puts them off trying and experimenting. Above all, be a great role model. If you know spelling, for instance, is not your forte, enrol the help of a colleague or even a parent (dare I suggest a dictionary?) to help you. Put your best foot forward by paying attention to these details as it speaks volumes about you.