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If spelling is rong, I don’t want to be rite.

Today I discovered the UNC journalism school has done away with spelling as a journalism test topic.

<Link removed since the source removed my cross-link. Two can play that game.>

This strikes me as concerning in many ways. I’m having trouble limiting myself to just a few key observations. As a lifelong management and communication professional, however, here are my most urgent thoughts.

More exactitude is possible and expected via the written word. Part of exactitude and accuracy is knowing not just the spelling of words, but their etymologies and connotations in relation to your audience.

Some argue that writing is already obsolete. The written word is not solely delivered in newspapers, blogs and press releases. Behind the scenes, teleprompters and scripts hold the written news spoken by those familiar broadcast and v-cast faces you’ve come to love. The lowly written word also serves as the notation and analysis that went into the more complex stories.

Spelling and grammatical awareness are a foundation for better understanding others' material – both written and spoken. This is particularly important in a profession (supposedly) required to perform research, understand when subtle points are being skewed via language, and seek competing views or sources.

Good spelling serves as a foundation for grammar. More specifically, it is a symptom of a love affair with our language. Care and passion in the selection of words comes across. It helps the reader connect with the story being told. Conversely, careless words often distract from the story.

In a time when more interpretation of complex subjects is required, a love of the language is essential. To take the complex and distill it into its more relevant, mainstream elements is an art. This is especially true in today’s fast-paced media world. Otherwise, we end up with journalism that is primarily a dictation of government statements and corporate press releases.

Don’t be fooled by those who want to provide you with a crutch. If you wish to excel rather than merely get by, a love affair with spelling, grammar and written communication is a powerful asset.

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