Can Anyone Out There Spell?

I STILL REMEMBER my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Fitzgerald, preaching to my classmates and me about taking pride in the quality of our work: "Your mistakes are a reflection of your person," she preached with such passion. She was perhaps the most fastidious woman I have ever known.

Mrs. Fitzgerald demanded perfection. Or at least a reasonable facsimile. Poor penmanship, coloring outside the lines and cross-outs were all egregious violations; no infraction, however, was as heinous as the spelling error, for it was her contention that this type of mistake conveys a carelessness that threatens to impugn one's character. Fanatical? Perhaps, but the longer I live, the more inclined I am to believe that Mrs. Fitzgerald was on to something.

Although her methodology was at times despotic, it did illustrate the value of hard work. It is a lesson most of us never forgot.The impeccable calculations in my checkbook register (not one cross-out) are a true testimony to her power of persuasion. Her not so subtle persuasion has found its way into other areas of my life as well.

As I drive the roads of Long Island, some 35 years later, Mrs. Fitzgerald's
warning resonates in my mind like a full-scale nuclear attack. When I cruise past the local mini -mart that proudly proclaims to be “open seven day's a week”or enter a car dealership that “accepts you're credit application with no questions asked,” I am filled with an overwhelming sense of dread; if Mrs. Fitzgerald's philosophy is indeed valid, and these errors are indicative of the quality of service each proprietor offers to the public, Armageddon can't be far behind.

Driving the information highway is no better; in fact, I have found that I cannot read for more than a minute or two without being subjected to someone’s ill conceived post on Facebook or Twitter.


As time goes on, and both the gravity and frequency of these blunders continue to escalate, I find myself pondering their origins.True, not every third grader was fortunate enough to experience the Fitzgerald indoctrination,
but it seems reasonable that at some point during the course of the educational process these individuals should have learned the basic principles of the language or at least have developed enough common sense to consult someone who has before going “public.”

Some of these errors possess wonderful irony, like "The Comitee For Improvement Of Public Education." Others, like the dental office that extols the importance of "the three P's-pride, professionalism, and presision”-are frightening.

Other mistakes are just plain silly. Who can get angry at a motor lodge that boasts to prospective patrons about attention to every last “detale?”

I have also wondered, from time to time, what Mrs. Fitzgerald would think about all of the carelessness I have observed. Although her first impulse would most likely result in a trail of red ink marks stretching from Manhattan to Montauk,even she would come to realize that her correcting pen wouldn't stand
a chance against this deluge of errors. Something should be done.

This can be corrected, right?

Or have we simply become products of a world that has sacrificed integrity in language and expression for speed and convenience?


I am scared....
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Published on December 02, 2012 11:11 Tags: frank-nappi, writing
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message 1: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Hello Mr. Nappi,
I just finished reading one of your books and as I do after reading any text, "Googled" the title. I was happy to come across this blog, and am sitting here giggling to myself about a couple things you mention.

First, in one of your previous entries about teaching your novel, you joked about teaching your latest. As I was reading it, I thought to myself, "Dang, if only this was school appropriate! He used so many vocabulary words we cover this year!" I am one of those readers who prefers to read a whole book in one sitting, and I dedicated my Sunday to Cam and his "self-destructive path". I definitely didn't see the end coming!

Secondly, this latest blog entry reminds me of one of my review lessons last week on homonyms. So many of the students smiled when I handed out the review exercise; they said it was fun to do those kinds of activities. I explained how little things like impeccable spelling impress a reader/grader. The kids went on to ask if I cringe whenever a friend makes a spelling mistake in a text or e-mail; that was of course after they got over the fact that I owned a cell phone. You know, teachers aren't "real people" outside of the classroom!

Speaking of spelling errors, have you ever seen the sign at Great American Jewelry on Merrick Road by Gino's (across from Burns Park)? Look out for that one for a chuckle.

I look forward to reading your other texts and blog entries. Have a wonderful holiday season!

Nicole Schnabel

PS: One of my students happens to be a young man you may know, your son Anthony. He is a hard-working and dedicated student and I can always count on him to participate in class. You should be, as I am sure you are, very proud of him.

message 2: by Frank (new)

Frank Nappi Hi Nicole - Thank you for your thoughts and kind words. Yes, we are most certainly besieged be this proliferation of linguistic gaffs. And while I write about it tongue in cheek, there is more than just a modicum of horror there....yikes. I too was smiling too with one of my classes the other day about my "top 3" English per peeves...the most egregious and offensive being the "then" instead of "than." Just makes no sense to me, at all. And both my sons (thank you for your thoughts on Anthony - I am very proud of him indeed!) know that I will not text them back if they do not spell out every word correctly! Drives them crazy but I guess I have a little of Mrs. Fitzgerald in me!

Glad you liked the novel. It was a marked departure from my usual endeavors but a worthwhile challenge that I am tempted to say has proven to be successful. I am cringing already at your suggestion to peek at Great American Jewelry but the spirit of perverseness in me is wondering just how crazy it might be...I am going today!

Thank you again for taking the time to write. And Anthony loves your class - truly. Cannot thank you enough for that. While he has always been an excellent English student, he has not always loved his experiences in class. Happy to say that is not the case this year.

Happy holidays and a restful vacation to you!


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