Communication blogger David Wise sent me the following link and asked me to comment. It is an article citing the work of CQUniversity researcher Dr. Michael Cowling who states that "Spelling is overrated. As long as the meaning of something is clear, why does it matter how we spell the words?"
For the benefit of Michael, David and everyone else, this is why it matters.
How you say what you say has a huge impact on its meaning. As readers, we don’t set out to be judgmental. In many cases, however, the only knowledge we have of an author is through what we are reading—and, consequently, how that text is written greatly affects our opinion of both the writer and the message. If all you can see are misspelled words, you might start questioning the credibility of the writer. You might wonder about the author's age, education or intellect and just how seriously you should be taking that person. Forget 'might'... you will!
That is the reality of the situation. However, we live in an era where those who point out errors in grammar or spelling are quickly marginalized as "Grammar Nazis". Ignorance rules the day, and the social pressure encouraging good spelling and grammar has dramatically declined. Consequently, people are making the mistake of thinking they can get away with poor spelling and grammar.
Now, English may well be a very difficult language, with a tremendous array of conflicting influences, and a host of specialized rules and conditions. It is fair to say that it is very difficult to conform to all norms of grammar given that many of them are subjective and conflicting (and many self-appointed gurus have themselves made embarrassing errors). I have absolutely no doubt that this entry, for example, has over a dozen real or subjective grammar problems: From the incorrect placement of a comma, to the overzealous use of a compound adjective, to the use of a colon where a dash would suffice.
I am not making a claim of perfection nor am I requiring that of others. Mistakes of grammar are common and, given the complexity, understandable. However, spelling is standardized (with minor regional variations), so unless you are intentionally trying to extend or adapt the language, some effort should be exerted to check it. To do otherwise is simply being lazy.
How we write is a direct reflection of our intelligence, knowledge, education, experience, and personality. Even if you are not intending your writing to be such a reflection it is how you are judged. So does proper spelling really matter? Of course it does! It helps make your voice more powerful and, in some respects at least, more meaningful.