On Spelling and Punctuation

I have a little problem.

My font of English has been permanently defiled.

(That’s a Sherlock Holmes reference, for people unfamiliar with the quote. Comes from “His Last Bow.”)

My sense of spelling and punctuation was ruined at a very young age thanks to Tolkien, Lewis, and Doyle. I was reading books punctuated in the English style, spelled in the English style, alongside books spelled in the American style, punctuated in the American style. Why shouldn’t a single quote serve as a marker for dialogue? Do I really need to drop the “U”s from various and sundry words? It’s the same language, right?

At times I think I sound and come across as authentically American as Perpugillium Brown…

Usually, it’s not an issue. Spell check is a wonderful thing—I just have to remember not to add the obviously correctly-spelled-for-England words to my custom dictionaries. (And don’t thinK I’ve haven’t gone through on occasion and nuked the custom dictionary file for my own safety.)

On a random note, I’m listening to a Tom Petty album I haven’t had in the CD player in at least five years—his soundtrack album for Ed Burns’ film She’s the One. The song “Walls (Circus)” brings back memories I wasn’t expecting. Anyhoo…

As I was saying, spelling and punctuation usually isn’t an issue. Except that I’ve discovered recently, it is an issue.

You see, because my brain for thirty years has said that British and American spellings are both right, I don’t notice the differences. At work, then, when I’m working with text from a British publisher—Doctor Who Magazine, for instance—I’ve had to make myself look at it several times, just to make sure I’m catching all the misspelled-for-the-American-market words. It takes a couple of passes, and I catch them.

I just don’t notice. Because they don’t look wrong to me. 🙂

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