Confessions of an Editor: I Can’t Spell, But That’s OK

Hi, my name is Katie. And I’m an editor who can’t spell.


Spelling has never been my forte, despite writing and editing words every day. Reading and understanding words is an entirely different process from recalling each letter and its placement. Is it seperate or separate?  Independent or independant? I have to actively think about those little details every time I spell.

In an age of spellcheck, memorizing the arrangement of letters may seem less valuable than learning to arrange words into sentences. The computer can do spelling for you, right? Not necessarily. An important part of being an editor is identifying words that may be spelled correctly but have a different meaning from what the writer is intending: effect versus affect, it’s versus its, chord versus cord. And sometimes editing happens after a piece is already in print. In that case, you can’t rely on a computer to conveniently underline spelling errors in red.

However, being a poor speller is not necessarily a bad thing. Whenever I go to edit, I am overly cautious about checking a dictionary for the correct spelling of any word that looks suspicious. Does accommodate have one m or two? A quick look at (one of the most visited sites on my browser) will let me know in a second. And the more I practice, the better I become at spotting common spelling errors. A couple weeks ago, I had to take a spelling test as part of an application for an editing job—AKA my worst nightmare. But after spending a week reviewing the most commonly misspelled words in the English language (misspell being one of them), I was able to do fairly well.


Thanks to Caleb Roenigk on Flickr for this photo.

A key part of being an editor is acknowledging your weaknesses and accounting for them. For some it’s tense consistency, for others it’s comma usage. My weakness happens to be spelling, but I won’t let it stop me from doing what I love: polishing sentences until they gleam, errorless.

*Words I spelled wrong (at first) in this post: conveniently, forte, valuable, suspicious

Written by: Katie Grimes, Michigan State University
Professional Writing Senior

About the author
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