This morning I was watching The Weather Channel® and saw this promo for an upcoming story: “Getting use to the heat.” Sigh. It reminded me of my disappointment two weeks ago when one of my favorite writers, Peggy Noonan, penned a column containing a similar sentence: “This didn’t use to be true.”
As a college writing teacher, I’ve seen words like “used” misspelled in freshman composition essays for so long that I’m pleasantly surprised when a student actually gets them right:
- A prejudice person (should be “prejudiced”)
- A cliché expression (should be “clichéd”)
- An old-fashion ice cream social (should be “old-fashioned”)
- It use to be . . . (should be “used”)
- He was suppose to be here (should be “supposed”)
- Close captioning for the hearing impaired (should be “closed captioning”)
The reason for these misspellings is completely logical: the “d” is almost always silent to listeners, especially when followed by a “t” sound, as in “it used to be.” Someone who only hears (but never sees) the words doesn’t even realize his mistake, which is why the misspellings are so prevalent in student writing. Few undergraduates are serious readers, and this is doubtless a reflection of the culture at large.
However, it’s depressing to see these mistakes occur so often in newspapers or text graphics in television news broadcasts. Such misspellings are particularly odious because they expose a writer’s lack of familiarity with the written word.
Journalism is still a “glamour” career, and those lucky enough to make it to the field’s major leagues have a professional obligation to know how to spell the words that constitute their stock in trade.