On Spelling Things Out   Leave a comment

Spell Things Out!We all have quirks that, for good or ill, define us. They may originate with some event in our life, the memory of a friend, something you read that sticks, a behavior from a hobby that spills over into the rest of your life, or simply a reaction to other people. One of my quirks tends to be some combination of the last three. I try to spell out state names and, generally, numbers under one hundred.

It somewhat started when I was helping my dad with a contact management system in the early nineties. He bought the software, and attended a training session. As his technical support (and home from college for the summer), I went with him. At one point, frustrated with his hunting and pecking, I took over the keyboard. He was old-school–I don’t think he ever learned how to touch type.

The instructor weaved in general business tips along with technical training. One point he made about moving client information from paper records to digital: take the time to spell out state names. You only do it once, he said, and it looks better.

This was amplified years later, in an article in Pen World International. The writer also favored using full state names on envelopes–it simply looked better (and don’t get her started about Canadian postal codes!). I started doing that, and agreed. It also let me use my fountain pens that much longer, in a world gone digital.

I confess it helps that I live in Ohio, one of two four-character states.

It has also become a bit of a reaction to text message abbreviations, such as “2” for “to” or “u” for “you”.* I understand using them in a text message context (especially in the days of multi-tap entry). I can see it in tweets where there is a hard character limit. However, I’ve seen it spill into business e-mails. Personally, in an e-mail, I think taking the type to type out words demonstrates literacy. Typically, you have both the time to type the extra two characters, and a full keyboard to work with.

For me, this reaction goes almost everywhere. I’ve revised tweets two or three times in order to squeeze in what I want to say to avoid “r” for “are.” Envelopes are addressed to “Louisiana.” It just looks nice, and, I think, shows a bit of respect for the written word.

*Once upon a time, I wrote a perl script “Prince Emulator,” to convert text into something that looked like titles of Prince songs (such as “I Would Die 4 U”). It was inspired by the book Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland. At the time, this was more of a novelty, and, for me, a programming exercise.

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