Spelling Bee! June 1, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
Tags: Customer Service, Quality, Spelling
By chance, I stumbled upon the finals of the National Spelling Bee last week. I watched a bit for fun, but was soon completely captivated. I wound up watching all ten rounds to see who would win.
I am a stickler for correct spelling. Spelling, like math, is either right or wrong. There is no “close enough” in spelling, even if the reader can figure out what you were trying to say. Poor spelling says, in effect, “I can’t figure this out; you do it.”
It was fascinating to see the competitors work through the Bee. For each word, they were able to ask questions about origin and meaning, as well as alternate pronunciations and appropriate usage. The color commentator was great, explaining how these clues helped. Word origin is especially helpful since various root and suffix patterns differ between Latin, Greek, and Germanic origins. Sure enough, one kid used the Greek origin of a word to pick out the correct “rrh” pattern in the middle of a medical term.
As all these things do, it came down to a four-time competitor and a newby, battling through the list of “Championship Words.” The newcomer, seventh-grader Tim Ruiter, missed “maecenas.” This opened the door for Kavya Shivashankar to nail “laodicean” for the win. Personally, I didn’t think this was fair. “Maecenas” has that awful blended “ae” and a soft “c,” making it almost impossible to spell if you haven’t seen it before. “Laodicean,” on the other hand, is spelled exactly as it sounds and is a somewhat more common word.
Although I think a better final round would involve soundproof chambers and everyone spelling the same words at the same time, I can’t complain about the general intent of the Bee: to reward those who care to get it right, who take the time to do the job well.
Would that we would all apply similar discipline and focus to everything we do, spelling or otherwise. Many people view spelling as a small, inconsequential thing, but it represents a far larger concern. There is no difference between a writer with poor spelling and a painter who does sloppy trim work, or a carpenter who doesn’t sand everything evenly. Either you care enough to do a job right, or you don’t.
Spelling matters. Grammar matters. Punctuation matters. Neat painting and smooth furniture matter. As does making that extra call to a customer, taking an extra moment to listen to someone’s concerns, or working a bit harder to understand a problem. Little things do matter, and all the things that seem big are really just lots of little things strung together. Get the little things right, and the big things will come much easier.