Speling Is Hard For Me by
(25 Stories)

Prompted By Spelling

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Ah, spelling.  It has been a frustrating struggle all my life.  For my father and two of my brothers, it was always easy.  That added to my frustration. My mother understood my frustration since she was a poor speller too. She told me that when she took an open book test in college, the book she always took was a dictionary.

My struggles with spelling. Included are my early problems and a reflection on the possible reasons for my poor spelling.

My struggles started in grade school.  Rules like “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ or when it sounds like ‘a’ like in neighbor or weight” made no sense to me. My mind got confused since there is no “i” in the word “way”.  When I had a math test and a spelling test on the same day, I only studied for the spelling test.  Generally, I got a better score on the math test. It was ironic. As they say, hard work does not always guarantee success, otherwise coal miners would be the richest people in the world.

At the beginning of most school years, I had to fill out a personal data form with my name, birthday,  date of birth, place of birth, etc.. Since I was born in Albuquerque, NM, I was always searching for a book with a map so I would spell “Albuquerque” correctly.  After a couple of years, I made it an objective to learn to spell “Albuquerque”. After I learned its spelling, my mother told me I should also know how to spell the county I was born in, Bernalilo.  Fortunately, I never had to answer that question.

Off to college.  By that time, I mastered using the dictionary. That worked most of the time. However, for my botany class, tests were the essay type written in blue books.  While I knew the science well, the instructor took points off for spelling errors. Most of the class was not impressed with this rule, especially me.  I ended up with a “B”, not an “A”.

Off to work, and my spelling became less of a problem. Most of the papers I wrote were typed by a department secretary or my secretary.  The secretaries corrected most of my spelling errors.  Later, when all the employees got personal computers, we typed our own papers.  Fortunately, the software had a spell correction feature.  Of course, I still had to be careful since the software could not tell the difference between real and “reel” errors.

I often thought about my poor spelling skills.  I blame the US Army.  When I was 3 1/2, I spent three months at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver since I was very ill.  During these  months, my mother visited me twice a day, but otherwise I was generally isolated.  The hospital did not have a separate pediatric ward.  I was in Denver even though we lived in South Dakota since my illness was initially a mystery to the physicians at the US Air Force base in South Dakota. The air force did not want to fly us home until they were sure the problem had been fixed so I stayed in the hospital for three months. Fortunately, there was no charge for the stay or air flights since I was a military dependent. However, I think that I did not learn vocal sounds well, and thus I was behind most children at that age. Then, at seven, the illness returned, and I missed two months of second grade. During that time, my peers were learning arithmetic and spelling skills.  I was able to teach myself math, but did not learn how to spell on my own.

In spite of my struggles with spelling, I feel I adapted well.  While good spelling is a valuable skill, I am thankful for dictionary.com and spell check programs.

Profile photo of Joe Lowry Joe Lowry
I was a child that moved so often, (8 elementary/middle schools) and finally went to to high school in Arroyo Grande California. I ended up at San Jose State University graduating in Chemistry, minor in Biology. Got married, and had two sons. Unfortunately, my wife passed 35 years later. I worked initially in the pharmaceutical industry. After being down-sized, I ended up in the aerospace field, working on satellites. I still live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tags: Spelling, Mother’s advice, reasons for my poor spelling
Characterizations: moving


  1. Mister Ed says:

    Nice story, and well-written too. Next up — spelling the county you were born in!

  2. Suzy says:

    Well done, Joe, especially with the intentionally misspelled title. That was a nice touch. I thought your explanation for why you had poor spelling skills was fascinating. Blaming the Army is always a good idea. 🙂

  3. Marian says:

    Interesting about the distribution of spelling skills in your family, Joe, and your speculation about being ill and isolated at certain times. Whatever your innate ability, that couldn’t have helped. Thanks for a good story.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    I feel you, Joe. As Laurie and I have written, neither one of us are good spellers either. Laurie points out that this has nothing to do with intelligence, so I am angry for you that your tests were marked down for spelling errors.

    Your comments about missing months of school due to illness, while the class learned math and spelling may account for some of this. I skipped half of 5th grade when we moved from Detroit to the suburbs, due to the way the Detroit school system worked. I was tutored for four weeks in math over the summer (long division), and did fine with every 6th grade subject (the new school system actually repeated some of what I’d learned the previous year with “new math”), but always felt that I was missing some basic math skills and had to work harder at that than anything to do with reading or writing (except maybe spelling). Take heart. It has all worked out for you.

  5. Thanx for the interesting story Joe, and I hope you’re now illness-free.

    I too am not a great speller and absolutely love Autocorrect and Spellcheck!

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