The Grammarphobia Blog

Spellbound

Q: I have a pet peeve that belongs in You Send Me, your book about online writing. I find it irksome when someone misspells a word in an email, but puts “(sp?)” after it to indicate the word may be misspelled. Couldn’t the writer take a moment to check the proper spelling – for his own benefit as well as mine?

A: I agree one hundred percent. It’s an annoying practice to use a coy “(sp?)” instead of bothering to look something up!

One of the entries in Urban Dictionary, an online reference whose definitions are written by readers, cuts through the bull by defining the “(sp?)” abbreviation as meaning “the spelling of the word is probably wrong.” No kidding!

The key to good writing, both online and off, is to think of your reader. Anything that makes it harder for the reader makes it harder to get your message across.

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