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By Hillary Wentworth, Graduate Writing Tutor

Is it becoming cool to misspell? Hip to abbreviate?

I asked myself these questions as I strolled through the business district of a town I was visiting recently. Everywhere I turned, something was a bit off. In front of the theater, the marquee read, “TONITE: JAWS!” I strolled by a salon with the name Hair and Moor (I doubt that meant a tract of marshy land). And to top it all off, the actual road on which I walked was called Mainstreet. Not two words but one.

It is true that language can change; the words in dictionaries today are very different from those 100 years ago (think of the computer terms alone!). Over the years, doughnut became donut due to length (and probably so we don’t have to think of all that dough while we’re eating it)—but doughnut is still the main entry in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. While you’re texting, how often do you write out because or see you later? Man, that takes time and finger strength. Instead, you truncate and cut corners. But does that make it okay?

Misspelling is not the only popular corruption of the English language these days. Abbreviations and acronyms have permeated American culture due to texting and emailing, and they’re likely to stay. Though APA allows acronyms (SAT instead of Scholastic Aptitude Test, for instance), limit their use. You don’t want your paper to sound like a string of HTML code. Your responsibility as a scholar-author is always to express meaning through clear language. And to do so, sometimes you just have to write the whole word or phrase.

Advertisers long ago discovered that if a business was “creatively” spelled or abbreviated it would get more attention. Passersby would stop and stare and think that’s not right. Then they would go inside to see what all the fuss was about. Misspelling was a way of attracting customers! Call me a purist, but I like my tonights with night in them and my doughnuts with dough. I think that misspelling in order to save time or business is, well, just plain lazy.

And as for scholarly writing, forget about it. It’s certainly not cool to write “thru this research” or “2day I will demonstrate” in your dissertation. It’s not even cute.

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