Are poor spellers stupid?

Are people who don’t do math, stupid?
The answer to both questions is, of course not, their brains just work differently. I have trouble memorizing anything that is not logical. Spelling, grammar, learning a new language, remembering people’s names is all rote memorization and has nothing to do with logic or intelligence.

If I had to choose a person to trust or whose opinion I value, a good speller comes in a distant second to someone who can think logically.
Take, for example, Cecil’s reply…

“The short answer to your main question is that poor spelling may, but doesn’t necessarily, indicate low intelligence.”
What a ridiculous answer. It has nothing to do with intelligence. Just as being poor in math has nothing to do with intelligence.
I use Grammarly, Ginger, White Smoke, and Word to correct my spelling and grammar.

The editorial program Ginger corrected Cecil’s answer to,

“The short answer to your main question is that poor spelling may, but doesn’t, necessarily, indicate low intelligence.”

White Smoke corrected my sentence

“Just as being poor in math has nothing to do with intelligence.”


“Just as being poor in math have nothing to do with intelligence.”

Guess what Albert Einstein, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemmingway, John Irving, Winston Churchill, Agatha Christy, W.B. Yeats, and John Kennedy, to name a few, have in common?

Why is White Smoke’s sentence more correct than yours? Since when does “being poor in math” take a plural verb?

And BTW, one of the smartest people I know has absolutely atrocious spelling skills.

Personally, I’ve always been a good speller. I’ve also been a prodigious reader. I have to sort of visualize the entire word in order to spell it rather than memorizing rules. I also can pick out the misspelled or grammatically incorrect words in a sentence. However, if a person does not first say the word (say, for instance, their name or an object) and instead begins to spell it, I am completely lost. I must hear or see the word first. Interestingly, I once mentioned this to my father offhandedly and was surprised to hear that he had the same problem. And he was a good speller too.

Don’t know if this is a universal characteristic, but thought that I would mention it since it seems to have something to do with how one’s brain/sensory system is wired.

Well, no - your insistence is that there’s no relationship it what’s ridiculous.

Cecil is obviously correct. It’s correlated with intelligence. Somebody with an I.Q. of 80 will very likely be worse at spelling and math than somebody with an I.Q. of 120 (assuming similar levels of education).

But the correlation is not absolute. There are certainly some highly intelligent people who are bad at spelling or bad at math.

(1) Ability to memorize is one component of intelligence, as it is often defined.

(2) So is the ability to see and understand connections, such as the connections between different words that are related to one another or derive from the same language, which helps with remembering spelling by making it less arbitrary.
Neither of which is to dispute that it is possible to be intelligent but a poor speller.

Is there a Cecil column or staff report on this matter?

My take is that really bad spelling correlates with lousy education, not necessarily stupidity. Lesser degrees of spelling impairment don’t correlate that well with education or brains.

Powerful anecdotal evidence: I am a noticeably better speller than Mrs. Jackmannii, but she’s at least a little more intelligent than me.

Well, I’m an outstanding speller and I’m an idiot, so I assume the opposite must also be true.

After a number of years fighting it, I figured out why I had so much difficulty with spelling. All the words I learned after I could read I knew how to spell. The ones I learned before I could read were much less familiar as spelled words. I had a very large vocabulary when I was a child. My parents didn’t use the “code” of spelling things that the children shouldn’t know. They circumlocuted what the did not want us to fathom. So instead of learning to spell, I learned to understand sesquipedalian obfuscation. I also learned that pedants who are able to pick nits about your spelling are less threatened by failing to understand your reasoning.


Isn’t it a bit revealing that paraphilia is a word and periphilia isn’t?


It’s completely wrong, in fact.

Spell checking is hard. Grammar checking? Unless it’s named “Watson” and runs on a supercomputer, it’s junk.

IME, a lot of poor spellers are simply lazy.

Especially the ones who blame it on their phones. :smack:

Back when I was in college, whenever I was done writing an essay, I’d always run it through the grammar-checker built in to the word processor. No, not because I thought it would improve my grammar. It was because I had just finished doing something stressful, and could use some comic relief.

I don’t know how long ago you were in college, so this may not apply, but grammar checkers have gotten pretty good these days. You still can’t treat them like a spell checker (make all the red underlines go away and you’ll be right almost 100% of the time). Rather, consider it as offering suggestions which can be taken or ignored in about equal measure.

I know these grammar checkers are often targets for comedic relief, but they’re not nearly as bad as I’ve seen them made out to be. In fact, I’d suggest there’s a slight majority of the population who–if they took every single suggestion made by the grammar checker–would end up with better writing than they started with. Does it suggest nonsense sometimes? Sure. But I write a lot, and I find that what the Word grammar checker underlines is pretty much always my weakest constructions. I don’t always like its alternative, but it’s very often correct in pointing out where my writing is unclear.

(ETA, I put this through the Word checker just now, and it, for example, suggested changing “…grammar checker underlines IS pretty much…” to “…grammar checker underlines ARE pretty much…”, which is correct given that “constructions” is plural.)

Neither one is decent English. It should be, “…the things the Word grammar checker underlines are…”.

Some people can be really great at something and terrible at something else.

Check that, make it “Most people”.

I think singling out one skill and judging people overall on that basis is a bad idea.

E.g., Edgar Dijkstra was a well known (and well mocked) Computer Scientist. He had a thing about handwriting. He wrote in a calligraphic style. I have one such original. For a given letter they are near perfectly identical. He thought that anyone who couldn’t write that well was lazy, etc.

C’mon. Some people, like me, are terrible at handwriting. The natural ability just isn’t there. Trying doesn’t make it better. I did pretty good as a researcher and got fairly well known.

So someone’s a bad speller. Not much of an indicator of anything. And I get turning off spell check on some devices because of the errors they create.

In terms of a “single thing” that would make be classify someone as stupid is being an absolute failure in basic logic. E.g., someone who thinks stuff like “Hitler was a vegetarian therefore all vegetarians are evil.” is true. The stuff they end up believing is scary thanks to such “logic”.

There are multiple types of bad spellers:

  • dyslexics, who make specific and repeated mistakes (different for each of them, but each of them has a set of “difficult letters and/or numbers”);
  • people who have never made certain connections (for example, if it’s pronounced /b/, in English it’s unlikely to be written “v” or “w” or “ph”… although it may be, but that’s a different problem);
  • people who are generally good spellers but who make an occasional mistake (happens to the worst pains-in-the-ass of us);
  • and people who constantly misspell on purpose and who, when challenged, come up with crap such as “you can’t make me” or “so I wrote your name wrong, who cares?”. These never got educated properly but in the manners sense, in the sense of understanding that while raising somebody’s goat may make you feel mighty and powerful for a moment, it is also likely to make them feel unkindly inclined towards your extremely-irritating self. In DnD terms, these may have decent or even high Int, but their Wis is belowdecks.

When I was amusing myself with grammar checkers was in the mid-late 90s.

This wasn’t true at the time, because sometimes, always taking the suggestion wouldn’t even end up, at all. I literally did once see a grammar checker go into an infinite loop, where given one phrasing, it preferred the other, and given that second phrasing, preferred the first one.

The SD column on this was recently on the front page, btw.


One more reason some people may be poor spellers __

I was a very good speller until a few months ago, testing at graduate school reading level in the 8th grade and always taking Honors English classes in college. In March I knew something was very wrong when I couldn’t spell my doctor’s name (Dr. Garcia it came out something like kgFyRRzX) or punch in this phone number to make a phone call. Turned out I had had a stroke.

A lot of my spelling errors have cleared up with time and some therapy but I now write and type much more slowly than I used to and rely heavily on the spellchecker while typing. Typing under time pressure like in online chat during a Hearthstone game makes me feel stupid and embarrassed.

I still read well and have no problem walking or riding my bicycle but do sometimes slur a few words a bit now and then.

Because that way the subject, the copula, and the complement are all equally plural, and the sentence doesn’t throw stumbling blocks in the way of the reader. It’s beyond technically correct; it’s easy to read—which is the one and only reason the Good Lord Above gave us correct grammar in the first place.