Do Poor Spelling and Grammar Mean Your Writing is Bad?

As you may have noticed, I deal a lot with words. I write daily and often am asked to help rewrite work done by someone else. I edit. I came across this tweet the other day from Fiona Talbot “Discussion in today’s Times: does poor spelling mean your writing is bad? What do you think?” And it really got me thinking.

I encounter misspellings a few times an hour. More often than not, this isn’t because the person is dumb, or incompetent, but rather it is because they were in a hurry. Or didn’t run spell check. Or both.

I am a huge advocate of writing a piece, then walk away for as long as feasibly possible (even if it’s just a few moments). The final step is to read it out loud. The out loud part is key. Yes, you might sound like a buffoon, but chances are you’ll catch mistakes you otherwise would have missed. I had several extremely smart professors that would ask me, before even looking at my paper, if I had read it out loud to myself. If the answer was no, they wouldn’t accept it.

This lesson is one I have taken to the workplace. When people bring me items to edit or rework, I ask them first if they’ve read it out loud. If they say yes, we move on. If they say no, I have them read it to me.

Most of the time, people will catch their own mistakes if they aren’t hurried. I know I am not perfect. I know I make mistakes regularly. I run spell check and accept word changes I don’t mean to. My grammar isn’t always perfect. The best I can do is try and get better and encourage others to do the same.

5 thoughts on “Do Poor Spelling and Grammar Mean Your Writing is Bad?

  1. I don’t think poor spelling means the person can’t write…it means they are careless. Especially if it is something spellcheck would have caught. To me, that makes someone seem dumb. But as you know, I am a spelling snob (and hypocrite…I’m guilty of the above).

    I love that you are making people read their stuff now. I bet it’s amusing.

    1. I hope it helps. I can’t promise we’re making big strides. I think it is giving people a bit more confidence in their own writing abilities, which makes a huge difference.
      Yes, it might be lazy and careless to not run spell check. I run it on everything, but even then things aren’t always caught.

  2. This is great advice! I think you’re right that a lot of people rush when they are writing.

    As far as spelling goes, some people just are not spellers, and others are, and both groups of full of smart people! And, thank goodness for spell check!

  3. Great advice! Reading aloud helps a lot when trying to catch typos, misspellings, etc. Unfortunately, there are still too many people who can’t spot their mistakes on their own. It still takes a good editor to catch the homophones and other errors that a spell checker can’t catch. — Laura (at

    1. Laura,
      Thanks for the comments! I completely agree about having a good editor. Unfotunately, I have found them to be a dying bread. They absolutely don’t get the credit they deserve.

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