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Post Magazine: Why Stevie Can't Spell

Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 22, 2005; 2:00 PM

Steve Hendrix is a voracious reader and a graceful writer. But for more than two decades as a professional journalist he has been mangling words. He's a travel writer who can't spell "itinerary," for heaven's sake. So he set out to find out why that might be. One thing he discovered is that bad spellers may be born, not made.

Hendrix was online to field questions and comments about his article.

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Hendrix is a staff writer for the Post's Travel section. He also writes occasional profiles for the Style section.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Steve Hendrix: Okay, our comic pick of week...

Geez, you give some people an hour of chat time and they turn into little Weingartens. (I was going to pick Wee Pals, in case you wondered). Well I'm not fit to wax Gene Wiengarten's mustache (or spell his name correctly, for that matter), but I do read his chat religously (meaning I cross myself a lot when I read it). No, I'm Steve Hendrix, author of an auto-humiliating 2,000-word confessional in Sunday's magazine on how I am the world's worst speller—as annointed by Yale University. (But they also proved, scientifically with lab coats and everything, that I'm not stupid).

Already, I've gotten a lot of mail from folks trying to wrest that crown from my head (including a LOT of working journalists, most of them still closeted mispellers). But I've bolted that sucker on for now. Unless you misspell your own mother's name, don't even bother making a play for the title. These are the big leagues, folks.

Thanks for looking in. One programing note: Tom "P.T. Barnum" Shroeder, editor of the magazine (and an admitted confuser of double consanents) suggested I go through this entire chat without relying on spell check. That's like asking a Grand Prix driver to go round without brakes--he just wants to see a bloody crackup. But because an editor's suggestion is the journalistic equivilent of a boss on the road crew pumping his shotgun in a certain marked manner--and because I don't want my next magazine assignment to be a snorkling adventure through the Manassas waste treament plant--I think I'll do just that.

Friends, today we go netless. You might want to have to the kids leave the room for the next hour.

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Falls Church City, Va: I found your article both enlightening and very funny! Thanks for making my Sunday morning that much more enjoyable!

P.S. No spell check, so I had to proofread this!

Steve Hendrix: Hey, if my public humilation can add a little joy to someone's Sunday, then I'm happy. Happily humilated.

No, you're very nice to say that. This story was a lot of fun to work on. I had no idea when I started it that I would be diagnosed a recovering dyslexic!

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Washington, D.C.: I often read the travel chat, and I've never noticed misspellings in your postings. Do you have someone proofread your answers before they're posted, or have you just been lucky?

Steve Hendrix: Normally, I write answers out in Word and run it through the ol spell checker. I also bug my nearby colleagues a LOT.

But for this hour, I'm on my own.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Steve -- loved your article!

It could be worse. My father (son of a headmaster) delights in torturing my children by telling them that "fish" is properly spelled "ghoti" -- gh as in tough, o as in women, ti as in nation. They, of course, insist it's spelled Phish....

Steve Hendrix: That ghoti gag was brilliant. This Shaw fellow is going to amount to something.

There's another cool spelling trick out there that I wasn't able to track down until someone emailed it to me this morning (Thank you, anonymous benifactor). This is not the exact version I remember, but it's the same idea, a Cambridge study of how our brains can fill in what we need.


"Read" the following:

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the! olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Such a cdonition is arppoiately cllaed Typoglycemia :)-

Amzanig huh? Yaeh and yuo awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt.

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Washington, D.C.: I will not spell check this comment.. This is my horrible spelling for all to deal with.

Steve!
Thanks you so much for the article! It made me cry.. seriously.. another professional Journalist can't spell! Thank God! I have been in broadcast news for the last five years and I have repediatly been scolded for my bad spelling. Despite the fact that I was infront on thousands of people a night and reading a promter, not to mention hundreds of press releases and articles every day. I just can't spell the words I read!

But I can find a possitive in all of this... I'm now the master of Spin. I have an excuse for almost every word My EP finds Misspelled. "Just keeping you on your toes," "hey it's phonetical... that may the dumb anchor can read it!" and "I think someone got into my script and changed that word... I would not have spelled the word which... wich."

As per spell check: as a totally rational person I have seriously pondered the though that maybe my spell check is screwing with me... seriously, is it possible that my spell check has a virus or that someone else in the building is controlling my spell check and watching me as a sweat anf scream at my computer? There has even been a time or two where I have yelled out among the cubicals: "Is anyone else having a problem with their spell check?"

But scream no more. Now I will laminate your article and carry it with me where ever I go. It is my new rebuttle to the phrase I often hear and hate: "read the dictionary." Now I will hand the "perfect Spellers" your article and say "Read this! Like the Great Steve Hendrix, I too am at a fourth grade spelling level and there aint a damn thing I can do about it!"

They will spend the next 30 minutes trying to Google you and forget about my misspelled word.
Ahhhhh The spin never stops.

Thanks again Steve... and To all bad spellers:
Misspelled words are like cuss words... a sentance is always a lot more fun with them in there.

Steve Hendrix:
Something about Perfect Spellers, as you call them, always reminds me of the seriel killers who keep everything in their cells just so--the bible exactly square with the edge of the table and the comb exactly perpindicular to the nail clippers. If things are a little bit off, they get Very Upset.

Come together brothers and sisters. Every other day of ourl ives the goodie goodie good spellers get to make fun of us. Well in this chat, WE hold the kards (That was on purpose! A joke!)

I used to write for TV some, too. The McLaughlin Group. While it was a relief not to have my actual printed efforts exposed to the multitudes, McLaughlin, that paragon of patience, more than made up for it when he wouuld peer at me over his glasses at one of my more mangled attempts.



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Washington, D.C.: I was fascinated by this article because I'm the exact opposite of the author. I normally only need to see a new word once or twice before I can spell it properly. Is there any research out there that addresses why some people are "super spellers"?

Steve Hendrix: Did you grow up near Three Mile Island, by any chance? Was your father named Kal-El?

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Marina, Calif.: Just a comment: Reading you column reminded me of a friend of mine who suffered a stroke. He was paralyzed on one side and couldn't talk. He has since fully recovered except that he can't spell.

Steve Hendrix: Maybe that's what happened to me. I would have been about nine, though.

Hey, I'd rather lose my sense of spell (sense of spell! That should have been our headline) than any other body part.

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Falls Church, Va.: Steve, I loved your article. I too make my living by writing (primarily) and I am very nervous when I don't have spell checker to lend a hand. But my biggest problem is math -- I'm one of those people who just can't do math (too). For that reason, I never had the nerve to take the entrance exams for grad school. How did you do it? Any quick hints would help but I'd love to see another article about your coping mechanisms. I have some dandy ones I use in the "real world." Thanks again; I don't feel so alone now.

Steve Hendrix: For me, the one-hour essay that you see on some tests and applications was something Dante might have considered and then discarded as just too grusome for the reading public. Hand written, timed with no electronic assist is the perfect formula to shatter my shakey spelling. But what to do? I just did it. The typical response was "You're a good writer, but good lord man, you're spelling is criminal." Overall, the good writer part was enough to speed me along.

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Washington, D.C.: I used to tease my brother mercilessly about his inability to spell, before I knew about the difference in teaching techniques. I am the eldest of three children, and my brother is the only one of us three who was taught using "whole language" techniques. My sister and I learned phonetic spelling. My brother is incredibly smart, but he can't spell to save his life. Why do people insist on believing that bad spellers must be stupid? There's a large segment of the population who were taught spelling with faulty techniques, but are just as smart as the rest of us.

Steve Hendrix: Teaching makes a difference, no question. But if your really smart brother hasn't improved in spite of years of exposure to reading and spelling, he may well have one of the wiring issues.

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Laurel, Md.: My brother is a computer genius (only went through 6 months of unemployment in Silicon Valley in the last five years; not bad) who cannot spell.

Fortunately, he went to Montgomery County Schools at a time when "individual needs" was considered more important than standardizing students, and wasn't nearly as harshly criticized as I was for my bad penmanship.

Did you uncover anything about what other fields of knowledge correlate well or poorly with spelling? Like bad spellers are just as likely to be math geniuses, but pick up foreign languages worse, than others?

Steve Hendrix: I did learn that folks with dyslexia (which comes in many forms and degrees) typically have trouble with foreign langauges and have trouble remembering dates and even names. I think the schools are getting much better at addressing these "individual needs" but I'm sure it varies wildly (and widely) from school to school.

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Bethesda, Md.: Thank you so much for this article, Steve. I too suffer from many of the maladies (excuse me while I quickly go to dictionary.com) you spelled out. Like you I am a writer, but I am also a teacher. I often wish they had a spell checker on the blackboard!

Steve Hendrix: Oh, a public speller! Be strong, Bethesda.

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Washington, D.C.: Amen brother!

I appreciated your story, as it validates my experience. "Just look it up" is NOT helpful when your misspelling is so far off that you can't find the real spelling in the dictionary. Thank you.

Steve Hendrix: Well, spell check is a huge leap beyong living with a dictionary in your lap. And Word's feature by which a red squiggly line appears under any suspect word means you really can correct yourself on the fly. Sometime my computer screen looks like it's being eaten by tiny red worms, though.

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Washington, D.C.: I really enjoyed this article. I--like one of the previous chatters -- am basically your opposite. I wouldn't call myself a super-speller, but I did win several elementary school spelling bees and I never bother with spell-check. I must admit I was always biased against people who can't spell -- I thought they were lazy or didn't read enough. This article has really made me reconsider that opinion.

Also, for what it's worth... I'm a journalist too and I don't work for the Washington Post, and you do. So really, how far has my perfect spelling gotten me? You're a great writer!

Steve Hendrix: Come to the alter, ye previously bigoted. No, not everyone who's a bad speller is stupid, or even uneducated, or even careless.

Just like not every ace speller is a sanctimonious, uptight prig. Possibly.

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Davidsonville, Md.: I agree with your theory about bad spelling being inborn, bit I also wonder if if is genetic. My daughter is a third generation bad speller. She scores well on tests for both math and verbal skills, and she reads above grade level, but she can't spell to save her life. I have wondered if it has to do with dyslexia, but she seems to be able to make adjustments when she reads. Thanks for the article, I have been looking for information on this topic.

Steve Hendrix: I don't know about its heritibility (good lord. heritability? heret....Forget it:

I don't know how genetic it is. My own eight year old is an ace speller, as is my wife.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: I have one son who never had to study for spelling tests and two sons who cannot spell to save their lives -- but they usually get a phonetic equivalent. The teachers think they're slackers -- but these kids are bright and witty. They memorize dialogue from movies after one viewing. We're at the point where neuro-psych testing is being recommended. That costs a lot but spelling errors are holding them back in every subject. Any recomendations about negotiating the halls of academia with spelling disabilities -- any science to back this quirk of brain function? Funny stories about your youth? ON WE TRUDJ!

Steve Hendrix: More on herit...on the genetic component. And never understate the power of bright and witty!

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Charlottesville, Va.: Steve: did you come of age during the era of letting kids write and not worry about spelling? If so, maybe you need to retrain. I had great English teachers all through school, and it helped a great deal. I think one key to being a great speller is having teachers who made it a fun challenge. Also, from preschool age on, our parents drilled us on phonics and spelling out words in a fun way. I think if you didn't have any of these factors going for you, that may be part of the problem. I can tell you this: Incorrect spelling makes some of us CRAZY. Please tell me you don't use apostrophes randomly or to pluralize. PLEEEZE. (It's raining. The cat licked its fur. The girl plays with dolls. The doll's hair is brown) Finally, I guess if you are willing to pay someone or buy software to correct your spelling, and your finished work is not affected, why should anyone care? Gud Luk.

Steve Hendrix: As I said in the piece, I definitely suffer for not having had a whole lot of rigoruous spelling training (I think our spelling quizzes ended in about forth grade). But that's only a percentage of my problem. I've been REALLY trying to get better a spelling for a long time (there's a keen incentive for a journalist not to be an idiot speller) but it ain't happening. That's what led me to seek another answer, and led me to the Center of Learning and Attention at Yale.

I don't use apostrophes randomly, and I fully understand the rules and meaning of possesive and plural (in fact, I'm pretty good at grammar). But I do often missuse them when I'm typing fast. It's another form of misspelling. My brain hears the sound its and it's capable (ha!) of using either version that matches that sound.

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Farnham, Va.: I sent your article to my own reading specialist in Florida. She said it is very good and was glad to see the whole thing. (The article was partially in a news paper there.)

Steve Hendrix: What part did they cut out? Not the part where Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a leading authority on brains and a Yale neuroscientist, declared me officially smart? Please tell me that part made it in...

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'Prig' was right, too: I notice you managed to spell 'sanctimonious' correctly. Hee.

Steve Hendrix: You never know. Next time it will come out sankamonies.

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Vineland, N.J.: Steve, did you possibly learn to read by a method called "ITA" (stands for initial training alphabet)? It was the reading method du jour during the mid-sixties. The children that went through the ITA reading process turned out to be great readers but poor spellers. Examples of the ways that words were spelled in ITA reading textbooks: The word "pay" was spelled "pae" and write was spelled "wriet."

Meanwhile, three cheers for the person who invented the spell checker!

Steve Hendrix: I don't think we had that in South Georgia in the 70s.

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Austin, Tex.: Does typing on a computer (not including spell check) versus writing longhand make a difference to your spelling?

Steve Hendrix: I don't write much in longhand these days, except Happy Birthday. Love. Daddy. And sometimes milk, bread and eggs. I've been typing so long, I think there's a tendon that leads straight from my fingers to frontal lobe.

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Taipei, Taiwan: Steve,

Your article appeared in the China Post today, but it was cut in half. Only first part was printed. So we never found out what happened.... until I read The Post story online. Those damn editors at the China Post in Taiwan! Cut cut cut, without rhyme or reason.

My question: since this is neurological, do scientists feel this also happens among Japanes and Chinese people who learn to read and "spell" in Chinese characters, which also must be learned, and there are more than 26 letters, some 25,000 or more in the Chinese alphabet. How do Chinese or Taiwanese or Japanese or Thai and Cambodian or Vietnamese children and adults who have this same problem as you... cope? Has it ever been discussed among non-Roman alphabet learners?

Dan Bloom in Taiwan, from Boston, Tufts 1971

Used to do freelance cartoons for The Post letters page, 1975-1977

Steve Hendrix: You asked some interesting questions. I'm no expert in the neurology of it all, of course, but I suspect at least two major truism would apply. One is that the neural systems at work would be the same for Asian languages, in that all languages are codes that translate sounds into symbols (and vise versa) and use the same neural systems. This all a very recent invention, biology-wise. We've had spoken langauge for tens of thousands of years--our brains are hard wired for it and everyone learns to speak and understand spoken language without being overtly taught. But the written versions are much more recent, a few thousand years at most, and our brains have to be trained to do it, whether it's English or Chinese. In that sense, I believe the research shows about the same proportion of "dyslexic" misfunction across all populations--about 20 percent.

The second major truism is that the more complicated the written system, the more dyslexia will express itself in the population. In Italy, with a simpler orthography, dyslexia and misspelling are minimal (even though fMRI studies show the same 20 percent of people with the "bad wiring" problem.) How Chinese, Taiwanese and any other speakers would demonstrate the problem and cope with it, would depend on the relative complexity of their langauge, I believe.

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Alexandria, Va.: On the spelling question, there is no doubt in my mind that it is a function of the way our brains operate. I have two sons. Raised by the same parents, sent to basically the same schools. The older, who grew up to be a journalist, has never been able to spell. The younger, a musician, has never missed a spelling word in his life. Nature or nurture... you decide. Or is it just journalism?

However, should a brain trust wish to institute a multi-million dollar study to find out why this spelling question exists, and how it affects other choices in our lives, I am sure , for the proper compensation, I might know two ideal candidates.

By the way, spell check is consistently stumped by the words my older son puts to paper.

Steve Hendrix: Maybe it IS just journalism. I've heard from about 20 similarly afflicted journos in recent days. And when I was working on this story, I sent an internal message to the entire newsroom asking for personal spelling anecdotes. Lots and lots of people had embarrassing stories to share. (But many more took the opportunity to out their co-workers. Vicious vipers.)

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Woodbridge, Va.: Steve:
I loved your article. I have never had much problem with spelling (having a Dad as an English teacher helps), but my kids' spelling is horrible. They learned reading through "whole language". However, while they can't spell worth a darn, they have much better reading comprehension than most kids their ages. I would gladly trade spelling for comprehension. Really, which skill is going to get them farther in life?

Steve Hendrix: That's an important point that Richard Gentry, the Florida reading/spelling specialist (who's a Ph.d who can't spell himself) makes. Whole langauge did a lot right, including bringing quality litertature into the classroom. But it blew it on spelling.

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1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C.: How did your daughters -- particularly the spelling bee winner -- feel about the whole experience having their dad infiltrate the classroom?

Steve Hendrix: Oh, they were just fine when they found out they might get their pictures in the paper. (Weren't they cute? The one you could see, anyway).

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Fairfax, Va.: Thank you for your article! I read it with my 11 year old daughter, and she cried. It explained to both of us why she can't spell even simple words consistently, no matter how hard she tries. Her teachers and the reading specialist in her school have insisted for years that she had no evidence of a learning disability or dyslexia, because she could read well, although slowly. They are getting copies of your article today. Did any of the teachers or researchers you talked to hold out any hope for ways to improve poor spelling, or is it just something she'll be coping with for the rest of her life?

Steve Hendrix: Aww (awe?). Thank you for telling me that.


There is so much new research into dyslexia and I am in no way an expert. And the whole relationship between dyslexia and bad spelling (in the absence of other profound reading problems) is not something that has been studied directly. But I would start with some of the dyslexia literture like Shaywitz's "Overcoming Dyslexia." There are specific remediations to be had.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Steve,
I see some keep trying to make this about the way you were taught in school. I taught all three of ours to read using phonics. Yet the one who most enjoys creative writing assignments spells as badly as you do. I need to know if this can be fixed, and how!

Steve Hendrix: Ah ha! Why fix it? Celibrate Devursity!

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Marina, Calif.: Just a comment: Reading you column reminded me of a friend of mine who suffered a stroke. He was paralyzed on one side and couldn't talk. He has since fully recovered except that he can't spell.

Steve Hendrix: Maybe that's what happened to me. I would have been about nine, though.

Hey, I'd rather lose my sense of smell (sense of smell! That should have been our headline) than any other body part.

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Potomac, Md.: What can we do now for my nine-year-old boy who exhibits these exact traits?

Steve Hendrix: A lot of concerned parents have been asking me this, in this chat and by email. My only advice is to take it seriously, don't panic and go about seeking information. There's lots of new work going on viz dylexia. One Washington parent told me that Stixrud and Associates is a credible local consultant for these issues (stixrud.com). Sally Shaywitz's Center for Learning and Attention at Yale may be able to refer you. For spelling particular questions, Dr. Richard Gentry is a nationally active advocate and author about new ways to teach spelling, and spelling role in literacy. His website is http://jrichardgentry.com.

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Sorry I'm Late...: Really a question for the audience here...so how bad has the spelling been for the last 45 minutes?

Steve Hendrix: yeah, let me have it.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Steve,

As the Atlanta editor who put you on double-secret spelling probation, I want to compliment you on a brilliant piece of writing. As I told you when you called me, I don't recall the incident, but it does sound like just the sort of thing I would have done (if only I had known to give you a brain scan). Congratulations on a wonderful piece of writing and your well-deserved success in journalism.

Richard Gard
Editor and Publisher
Fulton County Daily Report

Steve Hendrix: Hey Richard! What do you mean 'double secret?' You were standing on your desk in the newsroom when you said if I misspelled another lawyer's name you'd fire me AND take away my cafeteria privliges. Okay, I exagerate. But it was tense. You don't remember because you've developed nerves of ice after years of sacrifising young writers on the alter of quality.

By the way, thanks for giving me my first writing job. Next time I come to Atlanta on a banana pudding run, you can take me to Burton's Grill.

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Washington, D.C.: Here are some great quotes on misspellings. I love them because I am a terrible speller!

"'Correct' spelling, indeed, is one of the arts that are far more esteemed by schoolma'ams than by practical men, neck-deep in the heat and agony of the world" - H.L. Mencken, editor Baltimore Sun

"I respect a man who knows how to spell a word more than one way" - Mark Twain

"My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places." - A.A. Milne

Steve Hendrix: Bravo! None of the really cool writers were good spellers.

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Washington, D.C.: A few years ago, a member of the French government suggested that the French language could recover its status as the international language (now lost to English) if they simplified the spelling.

Obviously, he was someone who had never tried to learn English. If ease of spelling was the determining factor, English would be way behind.

Steve Hendrix: You're right. It's a cruel irony to most of the people of the world that the globe's linga franca is one the most difficult to learn.

We give them English AND Baywatch and we wonder why they hate us.

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Rockville, Md.: Hey Steve, good article. In response to your question from China, I believe I read somewhere (I think the Post) that people in China and other places where they read from right to left, have a completely different form of dyslexia, than people who grew up reading from left to right. Different parts of the brain are affected.

Steve Hendrix: Really? That's fasinating.

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Falls Church, Va.: I wish your article had been placed on the front cover. As a homeschool mother of a gifted-yet-dyslexic son I can tell you that it is not only a super challenge, but also an anolmaly not understood by other parents, educators, friends etc.

Would you ever consider doing an article checking out how the College Board now considers accomodations for SAT testing? Who gets, or who doesn't get extra time etc. seems random.

Thank you immensely for stepping forward and sharing your experience.

Steve Hendrix: That's very nice. I don't know specifically how the SAT folks accomidate people with special needs like that, but I know it's becoming more and more possible in general.

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Fairfax Station, Va.: Sometimes brain issues are a result of a pattern of activity, rather than the cause of an activity. Perhaps your brain patterns are the result of poor teaching in your youth rather than the cause? My own spelling has improved tremendously since I began homeschooling my kids and learning all those phonics patterns I was never taught in my Fairfax County elementary school. I do read very well but until recently, I couldn't spell. I still can't remember what a word should look like, but now I know when to double the consonants in the middle of a word, how to make proper endings, etc. It takes practice but it can be done. Don't give up yet. (Part of the problem may be a difficulty with writing and spelling simultaneously. Your brain is only good at doing one thing at a time. I have a son like that. He's great doing one or the other, but don't expect him to spell while he's coming up with creative ideas. Then again, he was a whole language victim, too, having endured that style of teaching kindergarten through 2nd grade. Habits are so hard to break. It's much easier to teach them correctly the first time around.) I suggest you look at Megawords, a series of workbooks for older students by Kristin Johnson. You can find it here. Now, get to work!

Steve Hendrix: I think I would be a better marginally speller if I really worked--for a long time--to improve my grasp of some rules. But only marginally. What really kills me are irregular words, especially doubled vowells, and those, by definition, are outside the influence of rules and patterns. They are simply a matter of memorization and use. I use them plenty, but they don't stick.

I can too do more than one thing at once. Right at this Red Jack moment I'm Eight on Nine doing this Ace chat and playing computer Black Queen, yes! solitaire.

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Fairfax, Va.: Thanks, Steve, for a great insightful article. It was very timely, as both my husband and daughter were diagnosed with dyslexia just last week. My husband totally related to all of your spelling horror stories. (Of course, I had to read the article to him -- unlike you, he finds "pleasure reading" oxymoronic!)

I am tremendously concerned about my six-year-old daughter. Have you examined what, if anything, the public schools are doing to address dyslexia? Since so many people are estimated to be dyslexic (20 percent) and since children can be reliably tested as early as age five, why don't public schools routinely screen for dyslexia? And why do you think most school teachers and principals are so ignorant of this surprisingly prevalent disorder?

I am seriously contemplating homeschooling my daughter because I am coming to the conclusion that the Fairfax County schools (one of the best in the nation!) are woefully unprepared to make the appropriate accomodations for my child. She's not "disabled" enough to qualify for special services, yet doesn't have the neurological ability to learn by traditional methods.

Thanks again!

Steve Hendrix: I should say, over and over again, that my problem with spelling is really nothing compared to a serious problem with reading. (Spell Check has been like Penecilin to the misspeller class. Or a bionic eye). But for both your husband and your daughter, I think you should take a look at Sally Shaywitz's book, "Overcoming Dyslexia." It's very specific about what kinds of interventions seem to be effective. And the annex she includes on people who have overcome very profound reading problems is not just heartening--it's excellent storytelling.

I think we're at the moment that dyslexia is shedding its stigma and science is gaining a meaningful understanding of what it is and how to overcome it. You'll have to work hard to make sure your daughter benefits from these advances, but my money is on you.

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Bowie, Md.: Did you investigate any other forms of dyslexia? I'm just curious because I can't just "read." I have to actually "hear" the words (inside my head, luckily, not out loud) in order to comprehend what I'm reading. If I try to read without hearing, I don't retain a thing. (This probably makes no sense, huh?)

Also, do you ever misspell your own name?

Steve Hendrix: This will be our last one. Many, many thanks for joining in. From now, if you ever see writing by me, you can be sure it's been mechanically improved. No more raw spelling!


As for misspelling my own name, it can't be done. That would be like swallowing your own tail. It's a well know fact that if you misspell your own name you cease to exist.

And, signing off, this is Steive Hind....poof.

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