I have a confession to make. I am not a particularly good speller. My mother has been astounded and horrified by this fact for years (my father is not good at spelling either so he takes it in stride). I don’t know why I cannot spell well, I have always loved to read and have an excellent vocabulary (except perhaps in blogs where I try to write as I speak to maintain a casual cadence and tone) but I cannot spell. When I type papers for class or other assignments I tend to run the spell checker several times and try to walk away from a finished draft for a while before coming back to edit it for spelling/grammatical errors. Sometimes they slip through, and the results are always embarrassing.
Combine that weakness with the fact that I am very busy of late with class, extra-curricular organizations, a full-time job, and an attempt at maintaining a healthy social life – and you can probably imagine where this is going. I am currently the webmaster for the Rutgers Association of School Librarians (RASL) and I try to stay up to date with the group’s minutes and other important information on the website. Our current website was designed by a past webmaster who coded it herself – which is lovely but it does mean that I need to go into the code to update any portion of the text when I update. When you go into Notepad, unlike Word, WordPress, Blogger or even Gmail, no squiggly red line appears under the misspelled words. Apparently, when I last updated I misspelled career (typed too quickly and added an extra r so it was “carreer”) and typed “and, “ twice.
Then the error got really bad. My partners in crime didn’t catch the mistake when I alerted them to the site update (we need to work on promoting the site, but that’s another matter) and I updated in a hurry and so did not check so I did not see it either. I only found out about the error when my husband asked for help on redesigning his company website. He asked for some samples from my work to show his partner – so I gave him three websites I’d designed for Information Technology my first semester and the link to the RASL page so he could see that I now know how to incorporate social media buttons. So my husband sends the links to his business partner then calls him on the phone to discuss the plans. Of course M (the partner) sees the error right away and reams my husband for wanting to use someone who cannot even spell career correctly. I was mortified at my error and at the fact that he was right. Who would want to use someone who cannot properly check their work?
While a simple spelling mistake on the surface is not a huge oversight in and of itself; I began to obsess think about how open I now have to be in an effort to create a personal brand and to be active in my career network interactions. I post in class discussions several times a week, often in response to a classmate’s post and, since it is a class discussion, am less careful about using formal language and about typos than I might otherwise be for a paper or presentation. I am on Twitter for portions of the day sharing links and making comments about news stories related to library events. I am trying to be better about posting comments on blogs I read; I am on LinkedIn and have a virtual resume out for the world to see. Not to mention emails between officers in the two clubs I hold an officer position for, countless business emails, updating information in a work setting and pinning on Pinterest for myself, but still with my name attached. Anyone who wants to track me down now only has to do a Google search and I come up in several different places. In any of these environments one misspelling, badly worded phrase can affect someone’s opinion of me – of how insightful, intelligent or worthwhile I am.
Before this year I only posted on Facebook to friends, never to work colleagues who may be in a position to hire or fire me. Now I’m hyper-aware of the impression I give off with every sentence I type. I know that I am more than just a written comment or a misspelling but with everything I’m posting that is not password protected there are more chances now for a comment out of context or a typing error to come to light. Who on a hiring committee will want to read the whole of my online life if they have a few select highlights in front of them? So in a virtual world that’s always “on,” am I now the sum of my mistakes?