by D.B. Pacini of www.astarrynightproductions.com, Writer’s Relief Client
I serve as a writing mentor for teens and young adults. Fairly frequently, with the desire to be unique, a young person will intentionally spell a word differently than the generally accepted spelling. This is fine in special cases, but I feel it is unwise in most. For example, if a character is portrayed as a street thug, I don’t have a problem with him speaking in slang. If a character is portrayed as a country-folk person, “I’m gittin’ ready to fix supper” works.
Recently a young writer wished to spell “skillfully” as “skilfully,” and I advised against it. She provided no reason for the spelling to her reader. She told me that it is an accepted spelling in the dictionary, so she wanted to use it. Although skilfully is indeed an accepted spelling alternate, it is not commonly used in literature, medical, or scholarly text. I believe that most readers will think skilfully is a misspelling and book editors will mark it as a misspelling. Unless this young writer has a specific reason for the unusual spelling, that is obvious to her reader, I think she should use the standard spelling.
When I intentionally use an unusual word, unique expression, or atypical spelling, I make sure that the reason is obvious. An excellent case in point is the current trendy expression: My bad. It is slang and is used to apologize for a mistake. Example: “Sorry, my bad! I forgot to tell you he called and left a message.” This relatively new expression is enjoying huge popularity. Consequently, it is used in a number of TV commercials and TV shows. Actors as young as kindergartners and as old as great-grandparents are saying it to the cameras.
Bottom-line point: We may use any words, expressions, and unusual spellings we wish if we do so wisely and if our readers can easily understand our reasons and our intentions.