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The Story of "Pandwidth” and other SPAG errors

Colin Campbell
by Colin Campbell on 10/07/18 18:00


If you have or have had a child going through primary school in the last few years you will know of SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar).

It was one of Michael Gove’s “big things” and something he enforced on education to prove how clever our children are becoming based on the “one size fits none” education system we have developed.

Apparently if you are good at SPAG you are clever and can pass up onto another step in the success ladder and if you’re not, you can’t.

That is not true, here are some reasons why.

Typoglycemia  is the phenomenon where letters can be mixed up in sentences yet we can all still understand them

“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

According to research from Cambridge University, it is possible to mix up the letters in words in sentences in a massive way and not detract from our understanding of them.

Why are we bothered by spelling then, when it is obviously not affecting our understanding of sentences and paragraphs in any significant way?

This would mean that we would be able to have difficulties in spelling or grammar, yet still be useful and provide a contribution that would make us ‘successful’

Dyslexia would be the greatest crime against Michael Gove’s SPAG progress. To allow ‘dyslexics’ into mainstream society would be to mix up the letters and numbers and to affect the ability to spell.

You won’t be able to teach a person with dyslexia how to spell properly.

If, however, you were to take the time to read the chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing book David and Goliath, which covers this subject, I think you would have a different view.

The chapter is entitled ‘You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child, or would you?’ It’s controversial but it tells the story of how dyslexia can sometimes be used by the people who suffer from it to teach them a different way to navigate the world.

Dyslexia can force people to develop strategies to become more successful, not less successful. It pushes them outside the lines and away from the herd and makes them stronger, more resilient and more creative (the skills that are required to navigate the modern world)

Dyslexics also have a much higher risk of ending up in jail, but that’s because society fails them and produces disenfranchised individuals who couldn’t fit the ‘one size fits all’ system.

And so, what is this all about?

It’s about a story I would like to tell, or a story I would like to change.

Last year super Marie, my PA, blog editor, Marketing Manager and long term friend went off to have her little baby boy twins and left a gaping hole in my work life that had to be filled until, if and when, she came back.

This hole was filled by Hayley (Margaret) Edwards.

Let’s be straight. The job of trying to organise me is a thankless, ridiculous and impossible one. I am a basket case – ‘Captain Underpants’ one of my ‘advisors’ calls me – so therefore almost impossible to manage.

Hayley was dropped into this melting pot and asked to continue co-ordinating the marketing in the practice, continue to co-ordinate me and continue to edit and publish the blog.

In the early stages we learned she had difficulty with spelling and it turned out she had been diagnosed with dyslexia in Secondary School.

I had a choice at that point, to switch her across to something else and try to put somebody else in to do this blog thing but I decided not to.

Hayley has huge talents and huge amounts of intelligence. She is creative and adaptive and resilient and just chews up work like very few people I’ve come across. In short, she is an extraordinary person to have in the role I’ve described above.

She just has one problem. She can’t spell.

A long time ago I gave up the discipline of rechecking the blog before it got published because that would have cost the time it takes me to produce blogs and would therefore reduce the output.

This is a stream of consciousness that I want to go every day and if I had to check them after they’d been typed, I would cut the number in half.

So, Hayley continued to type the blog and to edit it and publish it.

It was interesting because then the messages started to come in from different people. Some being helpful, pointing out the spelling mistakes, and some not so.

Hayley also typed my emails at that point and there was one particularly nasty email about SPAG which I received and responded to.

Hayley’s greatest triumph was the story of ‘pandwith’  - it was supposed to read ‘bandwith’ and it was a blog about how there was too much in my head and I couldn’t cope but it published with the word 'pandwith'.

It has been edited since and it doesn’t say that anymore if you check for it, but when I saw it published I laughed out loud.

This isn’t a story about spelling mistakes, and the blog wasn’t a story about spelling mistakes.

It was a story about someone who dropped into a position in our business to help as much as they possibly could in a time of difficulty and catapulted themselves forwards to become a linchpin and someone who is indispensable.

It is a story about someone who showed creativity and their resilience, their work ethic, their ability to play as a team, their ability to solve problems who incidentally had an ‘allowable disadvantage’ of not being great at spelling.

I’m sorry if you found the spelling mistakes in the blog over the last nine months difficult, but I hope this story turns things around.

I now have 33 people that work in my practice and none of them is without an allowable disadvantage.

The person who has the most ‘allowable disadvantages’ in the whole of our business is me.

Thank you, Hayley. You did a fantastic job.


Blog Post Number: 1699

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Colin Campbell
Written by Colin Campbell
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