edward long

Association of Old Crows

This conversation is closed.

Why do we bother with spelling?

Unlike chess, in spelling the middle game is irrelevant. All that matters is the right choice at the beginning and the end. The middle letters, which must be the correct set of letters, can be completely jumbled and the reader will not be confused. To wit: "Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe." How can this little known God-given ability of the human brain be exercised to simplify, and perhaps improve, our lives? Any ttguhohs you cveelr TED fklos?

Closing Statement from edward long

OK. OK. Spelling is important and we should continue to teach it and all the rules associated with it to those learning how to read, speak, and write our language. From Silverstein to Shakespeare; from subjects like cryptography and dyslexia, this debate was spirited and very much worth while. From the Netherlands to China we TEDsters hashed-out our feelings on this skill we call Language. It makes sense that the subject of written communication would interest TED folks, after all, what is more crucial to TED Conversations than wtitten communication? I asked two questions. Both were answered. We bother with spelling because it permits standardized rules of written communication. And, the only possible beneficial application for the remarkable ability of the human brain to unjumble familiar words almost as fast as reading correctly spelled words is to jumble words as a way to draw attention to them and add emphasis. We learned the idea of jumbling and unjumbling words is known in the academic world as TYPOGLYCEMIA, and THE JUMBLING EFFECT. Taht's all floks!

  • May 2 2013: Well, Edward, it's certainly a lot easier and faster to type properly than jumbled!
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      May 2 2013: Now that is an ironclad argument Lizanne! The God-given ability to decipher, or un-jumble, written words is amazing to me. As you point-out it is not a better (easier) way to communicate but I think it is still pretty darn interesting. As for a useful application of the skill we have just one suggestion thus far in the debate. . . it could be used as way to control the seped at wihch the rdeaer is reading as a way to emphasize a certain point in the text. Thanks!
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        May 2 2013: Evolution sure has given us a remarkable ability for both auditory and written communication. When a system is ordered, like our system of mathematics, there is less ambiguity. With less ambiguity, the reader can be more sure of what the text is actually presenting.
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          May 2 2013: Agreed that clarity is inversely proportional to ambiguity and that the ability humans have to accomodate what seems like excessive ambiguity in written communication is remarkable. Perhaps we can argue the origin of the ability on some other occasion. Thank you Braden.
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          May 2 2013: I agree Braden, that evolution has given us a remarkable ability for auditory and written communication. Now, the good thing to do is maybe use it for better communications with each other:>)

          I do not perceive spelling as a "bother".....it's fun. And if I get it wrong, I am sure Edward will correct me, as he has done in the past. I don't need spell check......I have Edward:>)

          You are new to TED? Welcome
          You live in Burlington Vt.!!! Right down the road from me.....cool:>)
      • May 3 2013: "S1M1L4RLY, Y0UR M1ND 15 R34D1NG 7H15 4U70M471C4LLY W17H0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17."

        It looks like context and the idea of an 'auto-fill' is just about right, according to Marta Kutas, a cognitive neuroscientist and the director of the Center for Research in Language at the University of California, San Diego.
        Our brains can also find appropriate corresponding letters to match digits, like in the above example.


        I agree, Edward, it is fascinating.
        Any thoughts concerning typing-dyslexia? When typing fast and getting message across quickly, we all are prone to it...
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          May 3 2013: Holy Moley! I read that with no difficulty whatsoever! My mind(or what's left of it) is blown! Thanks for sharing this authenticated stuff. Isn't typing dyslexia really just motor error? For example I aimed at the "J" key but hit the "K" key. We are wonderfully made for sure. Thanks again Lizanne!
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          May 3 2013: That is funny and interesting Lizanne!!! I've seen lots of those little tests with jumbled letters.....they are sent by e-mail often. Never saw numbers added to the mix....can read it perfectly fine.....amazing what our brain can do!
      • May 3 2013: Isn't that neat? Only drawback is, you have to use caps, otherwise the digits don't work as well. Personally, I find reading caps is like someone is yelling at me...!

        What I meant with the typing dyslexia thing, was not so much a typo, like you described, but literally switching letters in mid-type: teh instead of the, yuo instead of you, etc. I do it all the time, and I often wonder why I do (and am grateful for an 'edit' button when I do).
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          May 3 2013: Really, I do that too (who doesn't?) and I figure it is a random motor malfunction or sloppiness caused by excessive rushing, not a predictable, habitual effect.
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    May 5 2013: As others have said, we can only recognise these words because we can already spell. Language is a living thing, evolving all the time. Spellings have often changed over the centuries. The US and UK have different spellings for certain words. We do not need to make an effort to change spellings. Time does that for us.

    Spelling is important because in most languages a missed letter can change the meaning of the word altogether. In English too. I remember when we were children I used to give my brother spelling tests and one of the words was "shirt". He forgot one of the letters and that was something we laughed over for a long time. 7 years olds can find a laugh in anything.
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      May 5 2013: Time keeps drifting into the future. The most often recurring opinion here is that WORD RECOGNITION is the key to "Typoglycemia,a.k.a. The Scrambler Effect". It seems a missing, or added, letter changes the degree of difficulty in unjumbling words. Each letter is important. I know 7-year-olds enjoy laughing at,and with, their Grandpas! Thanks Pamela!
  • May 5 2013: This trick only works if we already have a recognizable word with an accepted meaning imprinted in our conscious. So yes spelling does matter or we would never establish the required a posteriori knowledge.
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      May 5 2013: Spelling does matter. How esle cluod we eevr raed porrpely? Rihgt? By the way, the question asks why we bother to spell correctly when our brains do not require such precision. Also the question asks if there is some practical, beneficial application for this impressive human skill. Thanks Gord!
      • May 5 2013: Other than making us better Scrabble players, and helping us find words in our alphabet soup, this cognitive quirk is as fascinating as someone touching their tongue to the tip of their nose.

        As a super power to save humankind it ranks somewhere between uncanny white teeth and fearless crossing guards.

        [or maybe someday it'll help us communicate with aliens determined to destroy our planet] :-)
  • May 4 2013: If scrambled letters aren't as important as we think, then this person really has no regrets...
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    May 4 2013: This is actually all false. The brain can understand these words because of the way they are presented.

    The only words here that are jumbled give you some insight.

    This has nothing to do with Cambridge University. This was an email sent by Graham Rawlinson. This email you posted was not produced by Cambridge University or anybody that works there.

    Many readers have reported a decrease in reading speeds between 10-15 percent when the words are jumbled.

    An actual study at Cambridge can be referenced here:
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      May 4 2013: It has been confirmed by earlier contributors that Cambridge University was merely mentioned in the sample paragraph and did not, in fact, conduct the study. Thank you for confirming the confirmation that the author of this is the mysterious Mr. Rawlinson. A million thanks for the very relevant link Henry. Hvae a good eneivng sir!
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        May 4 2013: Just wanted to make sure you are on the right track. No problem Edward I don't charge for my services. :)
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          May 4 2013: Good! Because they are priceless. You are wise and generous.
  • May 1 2013: oblivousy the aoaiipltpcn of ieeunnrfqt or eanavaxrgtt vulacanerr lades twarod foppery! :)
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      May 1 2013: Every word was easy for me to read with the exception of "vernacular". My brain did not respond when asked,"What contextually appropriate 10-letter word which begins with the letter "V" and ends with the letter "R" could this be?" There was no word in my memory which readily popped-up so I had to play Word Jumble to get the answer. Does that indicate that the skill is based upon pattern recognition? Hmmmm. Thanks for a telling emalpxle!
    • May 1 2013: :o You mghit heav a pinot theer.

      Hvae you raed Deianl Oepheinepmr's peaper ttleid:

      "Ceoncnseeuqs of Eiutdre Vaeuacnlrr Uzleiitd Itpresvicere of Niteescsy: Pmreolbs wtih Uinsg lnog Wrods Nessldeley"?
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        May 1 2013: "pinot" = a fine red wine. Also, the first and last letters must be correct. Does this phenomena work with emoticons?. . . :)-
        • May 2 2013: I enjoy vouvray myself......don't know about emoticons.

          You know, today I grabbed a piece of paper, and wrote a note to my son, and used the jumbling rule....and guess what?

          He read it perfectly........and he's still a little kid.....
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        May 2 2013: RE: "I enjoy vouvray myself. . . ". I am getting addled in my old age, I just spent 5-minutes trying to unjumble the word Vouvray! Good to know kids (yours anyway) can read jumbled words too. Gracias amiga.
        • May 2 2013: HaHaHa Ed!!

          That is too funny. The same thing happens to me when I am reading, and there happens to be a spanish word in the context which I try to read it as if it were English. Right before I yell out, "hey, this doesn't make any sense", my brain catches itself and realizes I am reading a different language.

          P.S. you misspelled gracious amongst ;)
  • Apr 29 2013: To be able to type as your copied text requires a perfect knowledge of spelling (or a spell checker), and would take an exceedingly long time to write. The trick fails if you don't have the first and last letter in place with correct word length.

    So, why do we bother with spelling as opposed to standard incorrect spelling wich cud b lyk dis?

    - Because it's easier to read.
    - Because it conveys information more accurately.
    - Because we are more likely to believe the information 'worthy', in the same way that many people judge others by appearance, not giving them a chance to prove their wisdom.
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      Apr 29 2013: Good argument John! Convention and uniformity is essential in a shared language. But, it's a heck of an ability the brain has to recognize the intended word.
  • May 5 2013: Yff wi dydnt yoose speilleng eeght wud bea dighikultt tu onedurstande thynss, plos, trice tyu ys wurds lic riot wich haz diforint spelyngs foure defirynt meeneengs.

    And that's just one reason. ;)
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      May 5 2013: "If we didn't use spelling it would be difficult to understand this, plus, try to use words like riot which has different spellings for different meanings." That took about twice as long to read as it would have had you spelled everything correctly, that's a50% reduction in comprehension speed. If you do it again using the "Official Jumble Rules" (first and last letter correct with only the correct letters jumbled in between) I will be able to read it with a maximum 10% reduction in comprehension speed. Thanks Pamela!
      • May 5 2013: This response I find interesting. Only because you cite "official jumble rules". That you must follow a specific protocol. Is that truly different than spelling? Especially as you cite it. Just thought interesting in light of the thread.
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          May 5 2013: Very astute Everett! The rules I see observed in the Cambridge paragraph are no less rigid than the rules of Spelling. This means that Typogycemia a.k.a. The Scrambler Effect is not a free-for-all festival of verbal anarchy. Nonetheless, the ability of the brain to read BOTH with ease is remarkable.
        • May 5 2013: Except he left out the word tricky.... And got the whole sentence wrong.

          Look at the Bible, when the Hebrews didn't use vowels. There's a reason they later added vowels to their language.

          We use standardization to come up with an equal way of understanding. Language is a science, expression is an art.
    • May 5 2013: Interesting, Pamela!
      I had to actually read this out loud to make any sense of it.
      My daughter is learning how to write, and this reminded me of how she spells - phonetically.
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    May 5 2013: If everyone spelled correctly, Jay Leno would be without his Monday night "Headlines" bit.
    (For non-Americans, Leno amuses millions of TV viewers with particularly embarrassing print errors from newspapers and magazines.)

    I once saw attributed to Thomas Jefferson a quote like "I have nothing but contempt for someone who knows only one way to spell a word."

    It's worth remembering that most of the words in our language (any language) that differ in meaning or spelling from the source language got that way by mistake, some time in the past. Mistakes made the language we're so proud of.
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      May 5 2013: That is a reason to not spell perfectly. . . the entertainment value. Thanks Paul
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    May 4 2013: The brain is an active and natural pattern decoder, able to decode. I have seen this stated as "proof" that the brain reads whole words at time. It doesn't prove that at all. The reading brain is an excellent predictor, but it doesn't get there until it has practiced plenty, learning the patterns of the language and applying them to reading text. A beginning reader would not easily read this text. Read Words and Rules by Steven Pinker or watch his talk.

    This doesn't have much to do with spelling. It has to do with a proficient reader's decoding brain.
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      May 5 2013: Thanks for the references, Della. I think spelling is germane to this debate because the brain does not stop functioning when it encounters a misspelled word. Although it may be socially preferable, It is not essential for every word to be correctly spelled to create a clear, readable communication. Several folks here have confirmed that their young ones are able to read the jumbled paragraph with ease which seems to offer a different explanation than yours. I agree that the jumbled words must be familiar to the reader, which is why it seems likely to me that a typical second-grader could read the following sentence: THE GRIL HIT THE BLAL WTIH HER BAT.
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    May 3 2013: Perhaps you could expand your argument and include grammar...
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      May 3 2013: Jumbled words rather than jumbled letters? Let's try an example: Would you the point here get that placement word critical is? Is that the idea Michael? That seems to require more conscious decision making that just jumbled letters. Interesting. Thanks.
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      Apr 29 2013: Which is precisely why spelling is important.Thank you. Any ideas as to how this remarkable ability to read jumbled words could be incorporated to enhance or improve daily life?
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          Apr 30 2013: The Cambridge research agrees with your observation that we don't look at every letter individually, but we look at the word as a whole. I don't agree with you that the phenomenon is not remarkable simply because everyone can do it. I think it is remakable. Also, the jumbled portion of the word is comprised of more than just the correct quantity of letters. . . they must be the correct letters as dictated by the rules of spelling. I too doubt that there is any way to use this skill to improve our lives. Thank you Chris!
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          Apr 30 2013: Again, thanks for the historical corrections. The gravity of the phenomenon itself remains real for me despite the dubious history of its discovery. Be well!
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    Apr 29 2013: Hi Erwdad
    I aerge, tihs aiitlby is alubsoelty aanmizg and gveis us a wee peek itno the hdiedn peowr of the haumn mnid.

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      Apr 29 2013: As a designer by trade I am always astonished at the unfathomable quality of God's designs. Perhaps the human brain is his best work? We are freflualy and wnfeodrluly mdae! Tanhks bthorer! :-D
      • Apr 29 2013: ".. I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well."
        Psalms 139:14
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    Apr 29 2013: Thank God for this trick of the brain!

    I know I can never edit my own work - even days later I still read from my mind rather then the words on the page or screen. Of course, as soon as I hit 'Submit', I see all the typo's and misspelt words glaring out at me. :-)
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    Apr 29 2013: Spelling is at its most important when reading a word you haven't seen before. In english at least most words are the sum of their parts.
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      Apr 29 2013: Exactly! I think this phenomenon of easily reading jumbled words is based on familiarity with the word. I would not know a word was jumbled if I did not know the correct spelling. I believe your answer to the question about the need for proper spelling is spot on. We must agree upon the proper spelling if we hope to recognize the word next time we see it. Unrelated to that truth it is intriguing that we can read the familiar word even when all but the first and last letters are jumbled. Spelling is important as a way to load our memory with good data. Thank you Peter!
  • Apr 28 2013: Frist fof all I hoep taht noen of my fromer sutdnest are raeding tihs conevrastoin Ed.

    Vrey itnerestnig piont idneed. I wlil heav to geiv it seom thuohgt and ceom bcak and rpely.
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      Apr 28 2013: I could not reply to you below, Mary, but of course any mother could interpret that message! Most of us have saved such writing. I wouldn't be surprised if Edward himself has saved little notes of this kind from a toddler grandchild, the apple of his eye.

      I appreciate your sharing your professional experience. The school to which I referred had Patricia Kuhl and Andrew Meltzoff advising, so I had a feeling the pedagogy was well considered.
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      Apr 29 2013: You amtsolt hvae the ieda Mray! But, "of" cannot be jumbled. "Hope" jumbles to hpoe. "None" jumbles to nnoe. "Students" jumbles to suentnds (or several other possibles). Remember, the first and last letter must be correct AND properly placed in the word while the remaining letters must be correct but are jumbled. Ain't the human brain amazing? I awiat yuor rsoepsne!
      • Apr 29 2013: Hlleo aigan ED!

        Well, I thought I had done it correctly......would I be a lousy misspeller....is there even such a thing?

        I will come back and try to answer your question.

        And fof was a type-o. I realize you have to keep 2 letter words intact.

        I will disagree with the word 'none'....This is why.....When you spell this word it ends with an "e", but is speech, it ends with the "n" sound. Therefore, the logical misspelling is better set as noen.....The brain will pick up n at the beginning and n at the end.

        If you spell it nnoe, the brain registers it as 'no' or 'know'......What do you think of this?
        BTW it is the same with hope (hoep and not hpoe)
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          Apr 29 2013: I love simple things. I think the rule of jumbled words is simply that the beginning and ending letters must be correct regarding spelling AND position while all the other letters need only be correct regarding spelling. I think phonemics etc. play no role in this particular phenomenon. This power of the brain is based upon choosing the right word from memory, not from familiarity with sounds produced by various letter combinations. I think the human brain sees the first and last letter and asks, "What word is probably intended here based upon the first and last letters AND the quantity and identity of the letters in between but not upon proper sequencing of those central letters, and upon context?"--PS I imagine you are not a very good misspeller.
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    Apr 28 2013: I don't agree the words can necessarily be read without a problem. When a word is dramatically misspelled, reading it becomes a puzzle which slows down reading. Sometimes the context does not give adequate clue to distinguish which of two words you meant to use.

    For small children it is definitely useful not to be finicky about spelling when they are very young. Children can begin to write fluently before it makes sense for them to worry about spelling. An English teacher can comment better about when it makes sense from a developmental standpoint to flag unusual spellings.
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      Apr 28 2013: It is with trepidation that I must disagree. Do you feel the sample paragraph was more difficult to read than if the spelling had been perfect? I did not. I stand amazed at the brain's power. I agree that a person who does not know the jumbled words will have trouble reading them. I read the sample paragraph just a easily as I would the unjumbled version because I RECOGNIZE all the words and my brain anticipates the next word based upon the previous word(s). Also, I cannot agree that it ever good teaching policy to allow a child to go uncorrected when doing something incorrectly. Teaching the 3 R's is about showing the correct way, it is NOT about condoning the incorrect way by withholding correction.
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        Apr 28 2013: I would have read your paragraph faster were the words correctly spelled, even though in your paragraph, context did make it clear what the words could reasonably be. I could imagine sentences, however, in which one would not immediately know whether "bred" means bird or bread.

        As I wrote, it would be instructive to hear from a preschool or kindergarten teacher on the point of when to start scrutinizing spelling. I have no professional expertise in that age group.

        I do remember that my eldest daughter went for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten to a school that was well known for its early childhood reading/writing pedagogy. In fact one of the world's experts on children's acquisition of language and probably a TED speaker (I have not checked that) was on the board.

        Their definite position on this matter was to start kids writing before the point of attending to spelling.

        We will wait until someone with expertise in early childhood language development chimes in.
        • Apr 28 2013: Yes, phonemic awareness.....which is making young minds aware of the 'sounds' letters make, helps 4 and 5 and even 6 year olds become writers before they can even read.

          If you google 'kindergarten classrooms or blogs' you might find some of this wonderful work online. Kindergarten teachers are notorious for showing off this kind of emergent writing.......it is very impresive.

          As an elementary teacher, I oftentimes have told my students to write the letters they hear, and when I read their paper I will be able to make out what they were trying to say.

          This system really works.....but should you carry off into the rest of your life? IMHO....No.

          I have to do some research so I can get my wording right to be able to give a precise explanation.
        • Apr 28 2013: Look at this link......scroll to the middle of the page and look at the note to the mom:


          Could you make out the message?....

          "Dear Mommy, I drew this picture for you, love Kayla."
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          Apr 28 2013: My advisor is my wife who has 25 years in elementary education. She says that to withhold correction for spelling errors would be a cardinal sin. If children are old enough to be writing they must not be allowed to spell incorrectly. They can give their best guess as to how a word is spelled, but when they get the paper back from being graded the incorrectly spelled words MUST be identified and corrected.Also Fritzie, the jumbled word must be composed of only the letters required to spell that word correctly, so your example of "bred" could not be the word "bread" or "bird". Jumbled bread would be beard, or bared, or braed. In context your brain would assume the proper word. Jumbled bird would be brid. Got it?
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        Apr 29 2013: I saw that in the Cambridge research. But in terms of the question of whether spelling matters, misspellings are not going to look like the anagrams in the Cambridge research. They are going to involve a sequence of letters that sound to the person's ear like the word sounds spoken. So the ambiguity the word "bred" offers is a better sample, I think, for illustrating why spelling does matter.

        In terms of your wife's philosophy, I am sure in any subject teachers have a variety of philosophies about how to handle their students. From a different subject, some piano teachers used to slap kids hands with rulers who made errors and some would never do this. Pedagogical preferences are all over the map. Some teachers let first graders use calculators and some not.
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          Apr 29 2013: Agreed sir on all points. I do, however, think the jumbled word phenomenon is unrelated to phonetics or phonemic awareness. Anyway we agree spelling cannot be removed from curriculums simply because the human mind can read jumbled words. Spelling is important!
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      Apr 30 2013: Unusual spellings slow down reading, I agree on that.
      But that's not why you have moderators or bots in chatrooms or foras and that's not necessarily why typed-in messages get flagged or removed, they dissapear when the rules of the community are broken. What breaks the rules or can be interpreted as breaking them depends on the community. The higher the level becomes in terms of either awareness or correctness (or awareness of what correctness may do, why does it matter, how it influences and changes within the community) the more difficult it is to decide what is or isn't correct.

      In other words, knowing the difference between "they're good" and "their good" is elementary, but knowing that the student knows it is essential in education and correction, which is and should be about creating more awareness and correctness at the same time.
      Know your students.
      Gentle correction creates both awareness and correctness more effectively than other types, from my humble experience (not Harvard or Oxford, less revered, but still educational). What is gentle depends on the community, but humour/irony usually works best. You shouldn't insult your students by calling them freaks or superfreaks because they know the difference between humour and irony and "they're good" and "their good", even if they like to call themselves superfreaks among themselves. You can at times, but only when sure that it's appropriate and being sure may be intuitive (that is: based on previous experience/quality of education received/how well you know the community).
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        Apr 30 2013: I don't think Edward's question about spelling had anything to do with online communities, Anna. I think he meant generally why does spelling matter anywhere. I know admins here don't remove posts for spelling, but I have no way of knowing whether that happens anywhere. It would seem inappropriate in communities with international participation.

        I have never heard of students calling each other freaks or superfreaks much less teachers doing that. I see you are from Norway. Is this your experience there?
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          Apr 30 2013: True, but I thought the first post answered the question in a way - it makes reading slower and may sometimes lead to confusion. Not always, but sometimes.
          When it comes to bullying at school - it's my experience from a music school in my home country. Freaks - that word was a summary of years of bullying in more or less subtle ways and how I felt after being a student at the school. Not all teachers did that and the fact that they did was mostly because of their own, justified frustration, but they shouldn't have brought that to work. It's a long story.
          To anwer your question - there are two official languages in Norway and a number of local dialects. This doesn't lead to any tension in itself, but some misunderstandings, both in terms of culture and linguistics and those do lead to tensions. It's interesting how this combination can influence the life of an individual in a foreign country.
          It took me some time to learn the differences and be able to communicate freely, but the confusion is still there at times.
  • May 5 2013: I think spelling is incredibly Important, dispite that im not the greatest speller, I realise that there is so much thought and history in one word alone its almost criminal to mispell. A word is older than I, and has had many years being formed and shaped into something to represent very specific things and carry so much meaning that even the writer may not be aware. So correct spelling is just a way to be specific and more precise way to express and its just logical to spell correctly to make sure we convey ourselves to others in the clearest way possible, because even with correct spelling we can have issues with communicating ideas.
  • May 5 2013: Thanks! I had a harder time writing that than you would think! It's not so easy if you're making it up as we go. Try it for yourself! lol

    If we didn't have spelling rules, bak can mean back or bake (remember learning about the 'silent e'? or that ck, th, sh, are two letters that can mean a single sound instead of two.We memorize rules that give language structure and meaning, otherwise words are just empty noise.
  • May 5 2013: I agree - and I can personally throw in jokes about bald guys as well. Let's just be glad a spell-check program can get us out of these misspelling predicaments!
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    May 5 2013: it is a little hard for the new learners but the native to undersantand .we alwasys read every specific letter to recognise a word .as a chinese , i believe the different order of letters in English creat different words ,
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      May 5 2013: You are correct Sarah. The phenomenon is based entirely upon total familiarity with the word as it would be properly spelled.How would we know a word was not spelled properly if we did not know how it is spelled properly? No unfamiliar word will be easy to read in a jumbled format. You are also correct that the identical set of letters can be arranged to spell more than one word. In such a case it seems the brain looks at the context and chooses the proper word. Thanks for your observations Sarah!
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    May 5 2013: I sympathise with those in a particular disposition to write that way. (I come across many such situations teaching).

    The real issue at hand, though, is in the amount of flexibility (or lack thereof) in spelling and punctuation,
    if you consider the way Greats wrote, Shakespeare notwithstanding, and not for convention's sake or originality but for more precise communication of the spoken word in written form.

    So long as the writer is understood, let 'em write how sounds are gonna be pronounc'd and, yes,
    hyphenate the contractions of Past regular verbs where needed: play'd, work'd. Allow for a more flexibl syntax, as well. Editors, cure yourselves of Comma-phobia. And spell-checkers never worked the way you want'em to.

    Another point is that, since colour print / display of text is so commonplace, why not assign colours
    to (English) word types so as to make it clear, to non-natives and natives alike, whether you're
    expressing a verb, noun or adjective etc.

    This could with advanced linguistic algorithms be universally set to be toggled on and off:
    'all verbs in GREEN' please, 'all adjectives VIOLET' etc. which would make for a visual aid whence
    reading any given webpage, to state your case in black and white.
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      May 5 2013: Ah! A progressive educator speaks. Color-coded parts of speech? Fantastic! Fanciful! What color would the word "green" be in this sentence: "His face was green with envy."? Anyway I am off topic. You react with "sympathy" toward the idea of using Typoglycemia a.k.a. The Scrambler Effect? Interesting. By the way have you seen McWhorter's current talk on TED Talks? You should. Thanks for your insights Alexander!
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    May 5 2013: Here are some more rules to consider when writing :-)


    And some thoughts why spellcheckers do not always help.

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      May 5 2013: Great fun sir! Language is entertaining for sure. A simile is like a metaphor. Do not use a big word when a diminutive one will do. :-D
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    May 5 2013: I'd say, even with proper grammar, it's often difficult to understand what people say or mean. Each word may have more than one meaning, and the whole sentences may have different meanings in different contexts. ("TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW." or an ad: ""MUST SELL HUSBAND disabled need more room")

    Brain can compensate for errors, but it does not mean that we need to be careless in our speech and writing. Sometimes, it can make a difference between life and death.


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      May 5 2013: This post is about written communication and you have shown that it is not just the letters that matter. Thanks. PS: You might enjoy this example: put a comma after the second word in the opening sentence of the great book Moby Dick. Talk about a change! Thanks Arkady!
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    May 4 2013: Come on, everything today has spell checker. No mind games, no superior mental challenges, if it is underlined in red, click and pick the correct spelling. No one has to spell incorrectly. Which brings me to the next best thing on the keyboard, the delete key. I use that when I correct my spelling and find my writing makes no sense...like now
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      May 5 2013: Your writing makes plenty of sense Mike. You are right that no one HAS to spell incorrectly. The debate here is centered more on the brain's ability to accomodate poor spelling without losing the point of the communication. Does that remarkable abilty mean we could relax the rigid spelling rules we all grew-up with? And, is there a functional benefit to be realized by exploiting this built-in spell checker/auto correct?
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        May 5 2013: I have read that there is a portion of the brain that deals with language. like cones and rods in the eyes, different cells react to differing languages, so the cells that can interpret Chinese are not the same as those that do English. Worse, if one language is learned the cells unused deteriorate, which explains why I am unable to master any other language then babble in my old age. the skills of which you speak must lie in an differing brain location. Like people who do jigsaw puzzles... how do they do that? Another skill which I was not blessed or cursed as the case maybe.
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          May 5 2013: Wow! Different brain cell types for different languages? That never occurred to me before. Good questionMike. Thanks.
  • May 4 2013: I noticed that while I could read your post - slowly - it produced a mild headache similar to reading something out of focus. I also had to reread a few words and decipher them and replace them in to context. So though it may be possible to spell this way - it is slow and gives me a headache!
    I would NEVER read a novel or other long text produced in such a way - and I bet no one else would, either. So this study points to the fact that a few misspellings don't matter - but a lot of them are really annoying!
    This research might have some use in the field of dixlexia - if I spelled it right.
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      May 4 2013: We have some responses here from folks who have overcome d-y-s-l-e-x-i-a. Did reading the paragraph in the introduction give you a headache? Some of the examples in the response section are pretty obscure by comparison. I agree a jumbled novel would be a hard sell. Thanks Andrew!
      • May 5 2013: Yes, I really got a mild headache from reading the misspelling sample. It lasted only a few minutes, thankfully. And dixlexia was a mild joke that only lasted a few minutes as well.
        I do wonder if a computer could be programmed to read through misspellings like we humans can. Might be a handy trick - like with that terrorist who was missed because his name was misspelled on the passenger list. Hmm...
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          May 5 2013: Some TEDsters do not find dyslexia jokes all that funny, kind of like I don't like jokes about fat old men who struggle with all the new high-tech do-dads. :-D
  • May 4 2013: Thanks to everyone for such a stimulating conversation. It has been a lot of fun, but I noticed that all the replies were from people who knew how to read and write correctly. Proper spelling and grammar facilitates understanding, so one who knows proper spelling and grammar can decipher the jumbled words, while one who doesn't just sees a jumbled mess. I would prefer to give all a chance to understand what I am trying to communicate.
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      May 4 2013: Mrs. M (Mary) tried a test on her young son and he had no problem unjumbling (see her comment below). Also see Frank Barry's response just a few below this. Good point though. Is unjumbling ability directly proportional to one's level of accomplishment in proper reading and spelling skills? There is a liyyle time left so let's see what folks think. Thanks Clarence!
  • May 4 2013: I think that it is because of our judging system. We tend to judge people by certificates- how well they do in exams, etc.
    Spelling is not different. We need to certify that the person who wrote what we read has passed a test set by society- leading to the belief that he is an intelligent person.
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      May 4 2013: Your reasoning seems sound to me, Itay, but I must know what exactly are you referring to when you say "THAT [my emphasis] is because. . . ".
      • May 5 2013: I am referring to the title- "Why do we bother..". The subsequent question which is how we can harness this ability to our own good is a tough one. In my opinion it can't be used for any "good" purposes because whenever most of the people spell in the same manner it turns to the practical correct way of spelling. That abillity may be utilized for humorous or informative purposes, as you did here.
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          May 5 2013: Bonus! Humorous AND informative! Thanks.
  • May 4 2013: I agree with Muhannad. Anyone who attempts to read a story written by a child who is learning to spell can attest to the dificulty, and humor, that unusual phoenetic choices can cause.
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      May 4 2013: I have scrapbooks full of just such delightful creations! Thanks Valerie!
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      May 4 2013: Agreed sir. It is word recognition which allows the brain to quickly decipher, or unscramble, jumbled written words. Another solid expression for the importance of spelling correctly despite the fact that the brain is not paralyzed by incorrect spelling. Thank you!
  • May 4 2013: I shouldn't weight in on this one.
    But I see Edward, that you hail from Mesa, and I am a Chandler boy.

    Spelling is important.
    Try learning to speak or write a different language without rules.
    Irrelevance and camidic tiwsts are the names to associate with your topic.
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      May 4 2013: Oh great, now I have to go to my dictionary to discover what "camidic tiwsts" are. So you find the topic irrelevant? Too bad because I think we have learned a great deal about language and brain function. Read the responses Frank, they are not banal, or irrelevant, and I don't think they are camidic tiwsts (whatever they are). The question asks why we bother with correct spelling when our brains can decipher incorrect spelling with only an estimated 15% reduction in reading speed. Every response adds some interest to the debate. You are correct that learning another language in addition to one's native tongue would be much more difficult without rules, but not impossible as evidenced by missionaries who have learned languages which are not written. Correct spelling is important, but not necessary for the human brain to understand the intended written word. Thanks Frank!
      • May 4 2013: I tried to give you a test with this, but probably failed in my attempt.

        "Bringing in the themes of mculturisualltim and Iaslm in order to win favor with pdoseuinteectualll tsomewentythings adintteng shocols such as USCD and Sfantord."

        MY granddaughter just laughed and read it right.
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          May 4 2013: Good to know about your little (?) Granddaughter having no trouble in light of Mr. Scott's response above. I got all your words except "laslm". . . what is that?
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    May 4 2013: spelling is a noise-reduction strategy.
    It clarifies communication - but it is local.

    Locality is constrained by the field of perception.
    If you can only perceive the united states you will spell "color"
    If I was an Englishman many years ago it would be "Colour"
    If my countrymen were to spell it, it would be "cula".
    But we pretend we are old Englishmen - spell check allows us to speak to Americans and Englishmen.
    Computer technology is not advancing us - it is retarding us.
    Technology is not what we assume it to be .. and the world is waiting .. looking at its watch and tapping its foot - louder and louder.
    TXT is not helping a lot.
    It will all break shortly, and the tower will scatter the tongues.
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      May 4 2013: Thanks Mitch for the comments. FYI BFF, the current TED Talk by McWhorter says TXT is helping a lot and we should embrace it LOL.
      I agree locality in time and geography matters in spelling, but isn't this phenomenon (apparently named Typoglycemia, or The Scrambler Effect) applicable to all letter-based written languages regardless of location? For example: "Mi csaa es su csaa." You anticipate Babel Redux? Good on ya mate!
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        May 5 2013: Babel redux!! nice!

        Here's the paradox - the children must create the language of their time .. I did it as a kid, and the kids are doing it now .. I think Sapolsky had something to say about that.

        But since I was a Kid I encountered a new thing(to me) - tradition. The bones for the flesh.
        The spelling thing forms part of the bones - but the flesh is the kids - the TXT and whatever - it has its moment .. As I observed in the McWhorter thread - TXT is doomed to disappear very shortly because it demands unusual thumb-skills - it will be replaced by facial expressions transmitted over visual media - facial expressions are part of the genome and require no special skill - the kids will add some hand gestures or utterances to identify themselves - just as words are used now - idioms.
        The traditional written word .. as bones .. will break when they are applied to stresses they are not prepared to bear .. branches will break, but with them a lot of leaves will fall - but the trunk will remain (I hope) .. at least a stump .. there wasn't much left from the last fall.
        When traditional language falls it is the result of isolation.

        One is tempted to look at why too much communication leads to isolation.
        But when you look around - that is what we are going towards - do you know the names of your physical neighbours?
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          May 5 2013: Thank you Prophet SMith! Every generation adds words to the collective vocabulary and some words atrophy and disappear from everywhere but the isolated world of the lexicographer where they are labeled "Archaic". You predict unspoken/unwritten communication? How very animalistic! How brute! What a tragic devolution! I do have to agree though that the trend in verbal language seems to be downward no matter what McWhorter says.IMHO.L8R.
    • May 4 2013: "and the tower will scatter the tongues"

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        May 5 2013: yes - unless we "get it".

        There's a chance we will.
  • May 4 2013: Well, because it should matter. Of course, that is not always the case.

    In professional settings and writings, it should matter the most. But in personal communication with others, it matter less.

    For me, it is just easier to write the letter correctly than to jumble them up. I guess I am just lazy that way.
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      May 4 2013: Yours is an often expressed opinion on this debate Everett. Isn't it interesting that it is easier to have everyone spell words the same way even though it involves getting everyone educated as to the correct spelling? One might think it would be easier to just let everyone spell however they want. Do you see any beneficial application for the brain's uncanny ability to unjumble the middle letters?
      • May 4 2013: The flaw with "everyone spelling the way you want" is then teaching that to other people who don't know english as a language. Also, the confusion of what is trying to be said. I wonder how this same idea would apply to other languages, where they are character based rather than letter based. I have not seen any thoughts on the brains ability to translate in other languages, of course by first language folks.

        I don't think spelling always matters and I tend not to get to hung up on it. I do wonder how this idea might look in school and later in life. If we said that spelling does not matter, we run into the challenge of "how do we teach it them?" With no conventions or rules for language, the language becomes challenging. And let's face it, english it tough enough all ready without adding another layer of difficulty on it with modified spellings.
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          May 4 2013: Every system has flaws. If we did not enforce correct spelling we would just teach the kids the sounds letters represent and let them build their own combination of syllables to form the desired word. That sounds like a North-Asian Fire Drill. But I guess pragmatism wins the day and there is only one CORRECT way to spell a word and that should be the one we use, for all the reasons you mention. Thanks.
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    May 3 2013: From what I have read recently, I don't think that most of us bother with spelling.
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      May 4 2013: You noticed? The idea has been put forth several times in this debate that proper spelling is observed primarily by people who want to avoid appearing to be illiterate. It's a vanity thing they say. If a person does not share the belief that poor spelling is a negative image then what the heck, spell however you want. The brain's ability to compensate for jumbled letters and numbers substituted for letters is phenomenal, don't you think Mike? Thanks for the astute observation.
      • May 4 2013: "that proper spelling is observed primarily by people who want to avoid appearing to be illiterate."

        I think this generalization is not accurate.

        There are phonetical rules that are attached to words, which help to pronounce them, for example, the word hat has the short a sound. But if you place an e at the end, the a changes it's sound to long a...hence the word hate.

        Then, there are prefixes and suffixes, which alter the meaning of a root word. Compound words that are made up of two words. And on and on go the grammar and spelling rules.

        Yes, our brain makes out the words, even when they might be misspelled, that is a wonderful operation performed by our brain. But, I really don't think proper spelling will go away any time soon.

        I'm a little bit biased since I teach spelling to children.....so what? :)

        I wonder if the Chinese and Japanese and other language groups that use symbols instead of Roman letters face these same issues. How does one misspell a word in these languages? And if misspelled, can the brain realize right away the mistake?
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          May 4 2013: You are correct in that it is a generalization and no generalization is always correct. All the rules you mention are unknown to me yet I am a good speller. That makes me think that when someone who does something correctly without knowing the rules which define correctness they must be operating from memory. There is reason to believe that the Spelling Police in America are cutting a lot more slack every day. The trend is toward less good spelling. It's all consistent with the general erosion of academic and intellectual pride. Character-based languages? They have no phonetics? How do they learn to pronounce what the character represents when they have no graphic representations of sounds?
      • May 4 2013: You might not remember what your teachers taught you in primary school for one thing, most teachers can teach a rule without calling it such.

        And you are correct, memory does play an important role in spelling.
        I take it you are an avid reader? Well, you have probably spent your entire life reading correctly spelled words.....why wouldn't you imitate what you have read with your own eyes? This is memory at work.

        As for foreign languages.....I can only talk about Japanese.....They use three different kinds of symbols. In elementary school children read using Hiragana. This is a phonetic alphabet. Then there is Katakana....also phonetic, meant to spell foreign words. Finally, there in kanji, which is symbols which have a meaning all their own........this comes from Chinese....each symbol stands alone and has a meaning of it's own. There are hundreds of them, and it takes years to learn them all along with all their combinations.

        Kanji and Hiragana and Katakana are used together in writing Japanese.......so you need to learn three alphabets if you were to learn to read Japanese...you need to know all 48 characters of both hiragana and katakana and about 2000 kanji..... but there are actually about 10000 kanji altogether.

        Japanese anyone?

        For example, the word "Japan".....written in Hiragana is ジャパン (literally--ji-a-pa-n)
        written in kanji is 日本 (pronounced nippon in japanese, meaning the sun's origin...or land of the rising sun)

        What I am curious about is, if one were to make a mistake in putting a line of dash in a symbol, what would be the outcome?

        I wonder if they are having the same kinds of problems with spelling these symbols as we have with letters?
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          May 4 2013: No denigration of the teaching profession intended. (My wife strongly suggested I say that). Japanese is always jumbled if I read your explanation correctly. English is a cinch!
      • May 4 2013: Yup!!!
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    May 3 2013: good qeutsoin as it truns out the lttres in the mddile of the wrod not matetr mcuh.
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      May 4 2013: Right on Russell!! Your brain looks at the combination of letters formed into a word, like "MATETR" , and accepts it as the word 'MATTER" because it fits the context and the spelling. Notice in the Cambridge paragraph ALL the correct middle letters and ONLY the correct middle letters are there. I wonder if the brain automatically confirms its decision by inventorying the middle letters for missing or incorrect letters? For example, your jumbled word "lttres" was not so easy to recognize because an "e" is missing. Is it easier for the brain to unjumble "ltteres" than "lttres"? I think it is.
  • May 3 2013: Language itself is an imprecise method of sharing ideas, so you bring up an interesting point: why pretend like proper spelling is crucial to successful communication? We can understand the words just fine, as demonstrated by our ability to read and answer your original post.

    Just a thought here: maybe our emphasis on spelling has less to do with accuracy, and more to do with vanity? Or some other non-pragmatic aspect?
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      May 3 2013: Isn't it a matter of establishing unanymity, Cameron? We must all agree that we will all spell a word the same way, just like we must all agree to call the color of a clear, daytime sky blue. Several reasons for the existence of rules of proper spelling have been put forth herein thus far. That's all fine. Speaking of non-pragmatic, McWhorter argues in his current TED Talk about texting that we should abandon such formality and rules and do what works, like "OMG". I'm getting far afield here. Do you see a beneficial application for the human skill which has the name "typoglycemia"?
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    May 3 2013: We bother with spelling for reason of law and agreements and contracts. If we didn't, i feel that we would have a lot of people getting the "wool pulled over their eyes" and cheated out of their rights because of these manipulations.
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      May 3 2013: Ah so. Who would sign a contract which read: "I hereby relinquish all rights to all my WRLDOLY belongings." ? Good point sir. But what about the fact that you probably easily understood while reading the contract that the intended word was actually WORLDLY? Any thoughts on application for that skill?
      • May 3 2013: Maybe the difference lies in what is printed 'black on white' and what we understand to be true?
        An intention often doesn't hold up well in a court of law...
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          May 3 2013: Specificity is everything in matters of law. I think a contract is nullified by a misspelled, or incorrect word. OK, fine, we can't use our typoglycemic skills in court. But what about elsewhere?
      • May 3 2013: Perhaps purely for brain gymnastics? You could come up with some great paragraphs and play with context to try and stump the brain, see if it would still get the gist. An Alzheimer's-stopper if ever I heard one.
      • May 4 2013: Wonderful!!
        I would also say, as a sort of code... but in retrospect, if it's this easy to read, it wouldn't help much to write down secrets in this fashion!

        Another observation - you substitute the "L" with a "3", but I personally find the "1" visually more similar to an "L" and the "3" more like an "E"... Nonetheless, I could read it perfectly.
        Also, in your example, you've kept the first and last letters intact. Is that necessary in understanding the meaning when digits are involved?
        Perhaps, as long as the use of digits is consistent, it doesn't matter which digits are used, again, due to context?

        W1147 1F 1 U53D D1G175 70 SU85717U73 4LL 7113 L3773R5?

        Problem - there are 26 letters and only 10 single digits... Using double digits to symbolize a letter could be mistaken for two separate 'letters'...

        I can actually feel my brain workin out right now!!
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          May 4 2013: Gads woman! The CIA called, they have a job for you. Good point about graphic similarity. In your sample I struggled with "7113". . . wait, I see what you did. You substituted 11 for H because of graphic similarity. That's a problem. The scramble/digit sustitution method works even with a 10-digit limit. Maybe we could substitute punctuation marks for letters?
      • May 4 2013: ¥0µ 700% 7∏3 ≈0®D5 ®1@∏7 0µ7 0ƒ π¥ π0µ7∏!

        I did try to choose symbols that looked as much like the letters as possible, but if you can read this, I'd be amazed...
        The exclamation point at the end is actually an exclamation point, by the way, which leads us to another speed-bump - use of punctuation itself.
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          May 4 2013: I took the words right out of your mouth? I know not how. Cryptography seems to be closely related to the Cambridge Paragraph this post is based upon. Deciphering your latest effort took deliberate effort, it was not at all automatic like the effortless reading of the Cambridge Paragraph. Incidentally, notice how the proper spaces between words facilitates deciphering. If you run all the characters together the task is much more daunting, Thanks Lizanne!
      • May 4 2013: Well done! I am impressed.
        Good point, negative space is as important as positive, like Debussy said: "Music is the space between the notes."
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    May 3 2013: I think it goes further than word recognition, sure the first few words are deciphered but I would think that we derived the intended meanings of the words shortly thereafter by the movement of the sentence. You start out slowly and clumsily, then exponentially faster as the sentences’ meaning or direction points to inevitable word outcomes.

    But, to answer your original question, we bother with spelling because the written language is easily corrupted. It commonly splits into different languages and becomes separate dialects. This happens very quickly, an example would be a country town compared to the inner city of any nation. I seriously wish all humanity would take up and communicate with the one universal language that is very hard to corrupt and self repairing...mathematical
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      May 3 2013: Not simply whole-word recognition huh? You are suggesting there is an "auto-fill" function in the human brain? Once the gist of the statement is discovered the remainder can be assumed without further deciphering? Sounds tricky to me. I think we naturally anticipate what the next word(s) might be, but it is not justifiable to go with that anticipated outcome especially when the text is jumbled. That forms the basis for the idea for useful application of this skill to slow down the reading speed as a way to add emphasis to a statement. For example: As you read this statement it be necessary for you to solw dwon adn not msis teh key piont of the thought expressed.
      • May 3 2013: Fascinating.
        It's like finishing each others' sentences (nr. 3 on my list of pet peeves, incidentally). I only needed to read the first few words and the last few to understand what you meant.
        With this is mind, perhaps we could go so far as to say: Why bother with grammar at all?
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          May 3 2013: Please see Mr. Froemmcke's idea below.
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    May 2 2013: This might not work so easily in other languages where the shifting of letters might produce entirely different words...

    frucht/furcht (German: fruit/fear)
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      May 2 2013: That happens in English too (pinot/point). I think the brain would make a decision based on context.
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    May 2 2013: Aeftr paceorrttd taeegiinnorrstvs by teh cachillnory peeerrtvd allootxs saadeeiilpqsun temrs were sbeelnqstuuy sailmmruy iabcelorrvy seepprssud.

    Hmmm ... I have to thick about this... I am not yet quite convinced.
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      May 2 2013: You are not civnnoced of waht? It smees to wrok wtih cmomon wdros, but not wtih rrlaey uesd oens. This seems to confirm the hypothesis that the function utilizes whole-word recognition. Thanks for the illustration!I do not know what word you have jumbled as "taeeginnorrstvs". In your final sentence my brain tells me you intended the word "think" rather than the word "thick" (that is not a jumble). Let us konw if and wehn you are cinvncoed Mr. Fmrokceme.
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        May 2 2013: taeeginnorrstvs erratum: it should read taeeginorrstvs = tergiversations
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    May 1 2013: Yeah, we can read it, but's it's not as pleasant to read, it kind of jerks your eyes around and labors your brain.
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      May 1 2013: Are you unimpressed with the brain's ability to read the jumbled words with only a modicum of difficulty? Maybe I am just easily amused. Oh wlel, I tinhk it is msot fscaiaintng eevn if tehre is no pairctcal alipcpiotaon for it. I gseus I am typoglycemic.
  • May 1 2013: It took me slightly longer to read portions of the poorly spelled middle section. I think that rather than why do we bother with spelling maybe the question should be asked on when we should intentionally use this phenom to add tonal information. We can speed up or slow down the speed at which I read a document, and I am guessing others have similar reaction.
    People are also trying to guess the intelligence of the person writing. Misspelled words tend to denote unfamiliarity which often leads people to shrink the importance of what is being said. Conformity to gain acceptance is my best guess on why spelling is so important, but I approve of challenging this idea often.
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      May 1 2013: Interesting sir, thanks for your thoughts. You posit that some folks bother to maintain accurate spelling habits to avoid appearing intellectually inferior. That makes sense to me. It would apply in other academic disciplines as well. You think the phenomenon could be used to control reading speed? If I, as the writer, want to slow you down in tihs setocion I cuolld jbumle the spelling and then return to proper spelling? Hmmm.
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    May 1 2013: This is an example of a wider phenomenon. Our brains have to take meaning from random and incomplete stimuli in most situations.

    Our ancestors could not wait to see a full and clear image of a lion before deciding to take action. They needed to act as soon as they saw a flash of something that matched, in any way, the pattern of a lion.

    As for a use for this specific ability with spelling to enhance our daily lives, nothing springs to mind. Though being reminded that our brains are constantly jumping to conclusions, which can sometimes be incorrect, is itself worthwhile.

    By the way I vaguely remember being taught that, when reading signs, people only look for the pattern of the word, which is why a typeface that gives the word a clear shape is usually chosen.
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      May 1 2013: Excellent observations Seamus! I doubt if US drivers would disregard a red, eight-sided sign displaying the big, bold white letters "SOTP". I think drivers would stop, without noticing the spelling error, based upon recognition of the shape, color composition, and positioning of the sign along with the number of letters in the word. Just as Igor yelled "Lion!" we would stop.
  • May 1 2013: The paradox of any art is that first you have to learn its discipline and then you have to forget it totally! The beauty of brain starts then!

    Rightly said by Kelly, the brain recognizes jumbled words bcoz we have learned it before! Goo thought though.
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      May 1 2013: Are you suggesting that the brain is simply a SpellChecker? My Microsoft Word spellchecker did not offer corrections for "goo" (because goo is a word) or "bcoz" (not recognizable as a botched attempt at anything from the standard data list). There is more to this than simple autocorrect by comparison to standard data. It also seems to be more than fuzzy logic.
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    Apr 29 2013: Well I think spelling is obviously important...
    Even if writing in a completely jumbled way was considered okay, it doesn't really improve anything does it?
    we need to type the same number of letters, so we are not really reducing the amount of time it takes to type.
    So basically we are not simplifying anything and it takes the same or even more amount of time to type and read.
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      Apr 29 2013: You are correct sir! It takes more effort to intentionally jumble the letters than it does to spell the word correctly. This extraordinary ability of the human brain seems to offer no real advantage or useful skill.
  • Apr 29 2013: why?
    Because when i first saw your writing, i thought i was reading shakespeare only to realize it was edward long!

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      Apr 29 2013: "Hrak! Waht lgiht trhough ydnoer wdoniw bkaers?" We really do need to bother with spelling even though we can read the words almost as easily when they are not spelled correctly? Please explain.
  • Apr 29 2013: Not all of us have spell check, also writing serves different purposes. Their might be phonological ambiguities and other problems.
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      Apr 29 2013: Spell Czech is knot awl wee knead hear two fined hour weigh. (Forgive me George, I cannot resist spellcheck jokes). Good points about the importance of spelling correctly. And thanks for the phonetic ambiguity example their buddy!
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    Apr 29 2013: It is better to keep simple simple.
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      Apr 29 2013: Occam's Razor in action! Undisciplined spelling would horrribly complicate reading and writing. The extraordinary ability of the human brain to recognize a badly misspelled word does not prove we can stop teaching students how to spell. Excellent point. Thanks Feyisayo!
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      Apr 29 2013: Greetings my friend. Do you think you read the jumbled paragraph easily because your brain has always seen letters as jumbled? (Am I correct that that is what dyslexia is like, jumbled letters?) That adds another level of fascination regarding the power of the human mind.
  • Apr 28 2013: To facilitate communication; Imagine reading everything where the words where written like in the paragrah in you initial post, and you encounter a word that makes no sense to you whatsoever, how would you know how to spell it and look it up. Imagine having a dictionary like that? Life would suck, really.
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      Apr 29 2013: Ah, the old dictionary enigma: You must know how to spell a word before you can look it up in a dictionary. Also, the interesting thing to me in this is the mind's ability to scan the jumbled word and recognize the intended word. That just amazes me. I doubt if jumbled words have any actual potential for keeping life from sucking, really. Thanks for the insight!
      • Apr 29 2013: I paly word jumbles almost everyday. As you know taht the game requires re-scramble several unrelated words, thus it is harder than to "decode" them within a well formed sentence.. My experience gives me an estimate of at least 5 to 10 times longer, on average to arrive at a final answer.
        BTW, your topic and discussion here also give me a suggestion that, in the spell checker software, there shouldn't be too much effort to improve the way of pointing out the misspelled words by replacing them with the correct ones (but still red-underline them). Then the typist would either go back to just make one click, over each, to consent, or they will be shown as the correct spelling when one hits the "submit" button.
        Of course, for text-chatting. a separate software can be written for both spelling and translation for the purpose of submission, for example, to TED talks, thru a smartphone or iPad. Because I needed double the typing time on a smartphone to input the same content by the touch screen than by the normal sized keyboard.
        I purposely left the 2 misspelled words at the top, but they are actually my frequent MISTYPING words anyhow for an unknown reason.
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          Apr 29 2013: I think the spell checker writers want you to have the option to intentionally misspell a word so they do not automatically fix everything. Do you find jumbled words much easier to solve if the first and last letters are correct? I think that is the key to the brains extraordinary ability to nearly instantaneously know what word is intended.
      • Apr 29 2013: To answer your question of about the degree of difficulty in solving the jumbled words is certainly depends on the knowledge of the positions of of one or two letters in the original word. But it also helps if the jumbled form consists of certain combination of the consonants and vowels. For example, the combination of letters like q & u, m & p or b, and others could lead to less guessing possibility. Another possible easy form is that the jumbled form consisted only one vowel and 3 or 4 consonants., then the single vowel can usually sit in the middle in the 2nd to the 4th position, because it's very rare that 4 consonants all bunched together before or after the lone vowel.
        I also apply a technique for the solution which depends on my guessing of the final assembly of the circled letters in the hinted combined solution. When that is known, then I could pinpoint the relative positions of the missing letters from the unsolved jumbled word. For instance, if the final solution has 3 missing letters, then these 3 would have to be located in the 3 circled positions in unsolved jumbled word. Of course this knowledge couldn't be as helpful as knowing exactly the very first and the last letters.
        For the computer software application, I believe that the relative positions of the alphabets in the jumbled word is not too much necessary. The computer can simply work out all the permutations of the letters to find a fit in a mini-second. I think that it can even work out a 6-letter word from only 5 letters given, in a very short time, etc.
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          Apr 30 2013: The Word Jumble is a famous, venerated,syndicated favorite which I have never found easy to solve. That is why this Cambridge study intrigues me so. I read the jumbled words with very little difficulty so long as the first and last letters are correct AND the there are no missing or extra letters in the jumble. We are getting a lot of explanations and history from the TED brain trust which adds to the intrigue for me. Why is it so esay to raed wehn the wrdos are jmlubed? Shouldn't there be a beneficial application of this skill?