Write is Right by Dellani Oakes


 I’m the first to admit that I can’t spell. If it weren’t for spell check, the greatest invention in the modern age, I’d never get anything written. Next best, on-line dictionaries, because now I don’t have guess every time I can’t spell a word. If I misspell a word when looking it up, the program will ask me if I mean…. And it gives me suggestions.

I misspell stupid things—anything with IE or EI, will always be reversed. Fortunately, the computer notices and changes it for me. Yay! Necessary. Camouflage. Bureaucrat. These are examples of words I frequently misspell. There are others, but I am most consistently wrong with these. I can usually get through necessary, but I have to spell it to myself as I go. I can’t just type or write it.

When I was a teenager, I had an extensive vocabulary. With a college English professor for a father and an elementary school teacher for a mother, how could I not? Unfortunately, I couldn’t spell the extensive vocabulary and had to rely on much more basic things. When I asked my English teacher about it, he told me to “Look it up.” “But how,” I asked. “Can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell it?” No one ever had a good explanation. It took me years to learn that if it wasn’t under the spelling I thought, that was wrong, I had to try something else. Tedious process. Again, thank god for spell check and on-line dictionaries!

I finally cracked down and put my mind toward spelling better when my English teacher, Mr. Frakes, gave me back a paper that said: “For story and content A. For mechanics F.” Much embarrassed, I decided that perhaps spelling did matter. It was a long process, and it only partially took, but I have finally gotten more conversant with spelling. I had thought of writing this piece, leaving the typos in, but decided that made me look way stupider than I was willing to look and I corrected them. I’m all for window dressing, but that would have been a little much.

I was grateful to Mr. Frakes for teaching me something else with that one message. That was to be as fair to my students as possible. I adopted that method of grading when I became a teacher, because I had some brilliant students who couldn’t spell their way out of a wet paper sack. One even bought a “Bad Speller’s Dictionary” only to find that his misspellings were so messed up, they weren’t in there. My heart went out to him. I felt his pain! More than once, he’d hand in a paper with the same word spelled three or four different ways, all wrong. I asked him about it once.

“I figured if I tried it different ways, one of them would be right.”

Sadly, he was completely wrong in that assumption. Somehow, he defied the laws of averages and statistics, defied the gods of grammar and still managed to mess it up completely. I lost track of him once he graduated. I hope he, like I, learned to spell and that he can find compassion in his heart for others the way I had compassion for him.


In addition to writing, Dellani Oakes is a prominent host on Blog Talk Radio.

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9 thoughts on “Write is Right by Dellani Oakes

  1. James L. Secor

    hahahahahaha! Oh, Dellani! How you make me laugh and giggle. How do you spell possessive “they”? I must yet stop and think where the e goes. “Commiserate” is another problem (I spelled it right here, though it looks wrong for the sound–I guess that’s why some people say “commizerate”). You’re in good company, though, as Stephen King can’t spell either.
    When I taught writing in China, along the way it was grammar; but, in the end, for the final, it was the through line of story, as, to begin with, they would jump higgledy-piggledy as if they had no thought at all. TV and movie kids have no sense if juxtaposition and transition.
    I curse spell check for now I’m a much slower, more accident-prone typist.

  2. John B. Rosenman

    Dellani, I loved this, and my heart goes out to you and all others who struggle with spelling. Personally, I’m a pretty good speller, but when it comes to writing, I have a host of other problems. I love the part about messing up your misspellings. How demoralizing it must be not just to misspell, but to mess up your misspellings. LOL.

    1. Dellani Oakes

      Thank you, John. I do console myself with the fact that I can type VERY fast and, now that I’ve got a computer, don’t make those pesky typing errors like I used to in high school. Of course, I sat next to the best typist in class, which was completely humiliating.

    1. Dellani Oakes

      I’m so glad that we both overcame our short comings, Patricia. I felt it the only fair way to grade. I had some wonderfully creative students, but they had some issues. I hope that I helped them. I hope that somewhere, a former student is saying about me what I said about Mr. Frakes.


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