The importance of spelling

A recent Facebook meme reminded me of the importance of spelling. I won’t post the meme here because it will be offensive to some and make others go, “Ewwww.” But it did show the importance of spelling words correctly.

Now, a misspelled word here and there may seem like it doesn’t really matter. But sometimes it becomes very important, like the following example from the first computer book I wrote. I have to get a bit technical to explain this, but don’t go running from your home, screaming loudly. I’m going to simplify it.

The book I wrote was about a software package called Crystal Reports. As you may have guessed, it’s a program that lets you create reports using data from a database. The program consisted of two parts. The first was the report “designer”. This let you layout where you wanted specific pieces of data, images, text, and other things on the page. The second part could be used by programmers working on other programs to control how Crystal Reports works. For example, you could use a different database than what was used when the report was created in the designer. Or, you could have the report saved as a PDF or a Word document or an Excel sheet instead of being printed. The part of the program that lets another program control it is called an Application Programming Interface or API. Keep in mind, I’m simplifying this. An API can be used for other things.

When a programmer creates an API, she combines real words together to describe some functionality. So, if the code pulls customer data from the database, this piece of code may be named GetCustomerData. Then every time the programmer needs customer data, this function is called.

I don’t remember the Crystal Reports API function that was misspelled, but let’s say it was supposed to be UnderlineText. The programmer that created it transposed two letters so it became UdnerlineText. When I wrote the book, I put in a line that I didn’t misspell it. You may think, “Why doesn’t the Crystal Reports company just correct the spelling in the next version?” They could, but there could be thousands of other programs out there that have used this API function. If the spelling got corrected then every one of those thousands of programs would stop working. They would all have a bug. It has to stay misspelled forever.

The take away here is make an effort to check the spelling because it could be very, very important.

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