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Internet liberates the worst in us

Good spelling this past week received some much-needed publicity. Unfortunately, these days, it seems spelling almost a lost art. Email, Twitter, Facebook and text-messaging have converted us to digital shorthand. U agree, rite? LOL, OMG.

Twitter limits users to 140 characters per message. Texters try to say what they think they mean in the fastest, most expedient way possible. My daughter and granddaughter would rather text than talk on their cell phones. I understand, but it still is nice to observe an emphasis on spelling words correctly.

For someone who earns his living by writing, poor spelling hinders a writer’s ability to make his or her point. Over the years I have worked with reporters who experienced difficulty spelling “cat” after you spot them two letters.

One I’ll call Stan said more than once that it was the job of editors to correct his spelling errors. Thankfully, he decided journalism was not his best career choice despite four years of college and a journalism degree.

My desk references include a dictionary, thesaurus and Associated Press style book. A spell check function is built into the software program on my computer.

Spell check is not infallible. It won’t distinguish from among “to,” “too” and “two,” “effective” or “affective,” or “right” and “write.”

Several years ago I wrote a large headline that was supposed to read “Clinton raps Bush on taxes.” Unfortunately, I included an “e” between the last two letters in “raps,” creating a word that spell check indicated was spelled correctly. I did not see any humor in my error.

Last week 14-year-old girl from Southern California won the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling “guetapens,” a French-derived word that means a snare or trap. I turned to my dictionary to determine the meaning of the word.

Snigdha Nadipati, an eighth-grader, was calm as she beat out eight other finalists at the competition. She is the fifth consecutive Indian American winner and the 10th in the past 14 years.

While practicing for the bee in Maryland, she said she studied six to 10 hours a day on weekdays and 10 to 12 hours on weekends. That will serve her well if goes on to medical school.

She won almost $40,000 in prize and scholarship money when she was declared the nation’s top speller. She should share the money with her father.

Krishnarao Nadipati, a software consultant, wrote a computer program to extract information from an online dictionary. The program created flashcards for some of the most challenging words, and Krishnarao said he printed about 30,000 cards to help his daughter prepare for the competition.

The youngest contestant, a 6-year-old Virginia girl, missed qualifying for the semifinals of this year’s competition when she tripped up on the word “ingluvies.” Well, she is only 6. Stan couldn’t spell the word when he was 26.

Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign recently released a free mobile app called “With Mitt” in an effort to connect with younger voters. The app allows users to upload photos and express their support for the candidate, against a backdrop reading “A Better America.”

However, it didn’t. Instead, the backdrop for Romney’s app read “A Better Amercia.” Stan may have gone into political consulting.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.