Alex McRae

Spell chek

It’s hard to get cranky at someone for doing something you’ve done yourself. In my case, more times than I can count.

So I will not be chunking any stones at the students and teachers who put together the 2013 yearbook for Minnesota’s Moorhead High. But it looks like I might be in the minority.

Anyone who has written, edited, laid out or even read a school yearbook knows that things go wrong. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Publishing happens.”

A student’s name is incorrectly spelled. A teacher is misidentified in a class picture. Photos of the weightlifting and chess clubs get switched. Those who aren’t affected may not even notice. No big deal.

But the Moorhead mistake — a spelling error — is one that’s hard to overlook. First, because it’s on the yearbook cover. Second, because the word that’s misspelled is the name of the school. And the town.

An extra “e” was added, turning Moorhead to Moorehead. Some people aren’t happy, not the Moores and certainly not the Moors.

The incident left those responsible red-faced, but for my money, the school couldn’t have handled things better.

Instead of blaming budget cuts or standardized test fatigue, school officials admitted the mistake and took responsibility. They issued a statement saying, “The 2013 Moorhead High School yearbook has been printed with Moorhead spelled incorrectly on the cover. Multiple student editors and the advisor proofed the yearbook, which is a student-produced publication, but the mistake was not caught. Moorhead High School regrets that the error happened.”

Students can learn two great lessons from this. First, no matter how hard you try, mistakes will be made. Second, people will forgive you if you admit an error and take the heat.

As expected, some have gleefully piled on, calling this a perfect example of the decline of American education.

They shouldn’t. Humans misspell words. It happens. And not just in school publications.

For example, a newspaper in Richland County, Ohio, caught considerable heat not too long ago for a headline reading, “County spelling bee postoned one more time.”

A paper near St. Louis headlined an article, “Want to spell like a champ? Read Wenster’s dictionary.” The paper not only misspelled Webster’s, they failed to capitalize Dictionary, a double play in the dumb department.

Even a pope was victimized by poor newspaper spelling. During the funeral of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger — soon to be Pope Benedict — was quoted as saying, "Today we bury his remains in the earth as seeds of immorality."

Immorality. Immortality. To-ma-to, to-mah-to.

Ratzinger said it properly. That’s all that counts.

Letters written by political giants George Washington and Winston Churchill demonstrate their poor spelling skills. When it came to leading their countries, they were at the head of the class. Neither was asked to spell victory.

President Andrew Jackson was such a bad speller, a political opponent once mocked his way with the written word. Jackson responded with, “It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.”

Amen, brother. Why, even some so-called literary geniuses displayed spelling skills that would have made dictionery dude Wenster nauseous.

After a particular editor kept complaining about Ernest Hemingway’s poor spelling. Hemingway fired back a note saying, “That’s what you’re hired to correct.”

Moorhead High officials say they can’t afford to reprint the yearbooks, but might cover the error with a sticker.

I hope they don’t.

Things are tense today, but years from now, only one Moorhead High Yearbook will be talked about at class reunions. I bet not a singel member of the Class of 2013 will complain.

(Send your email coments to: alexmmcrae@gmail.com)



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