Research Report: So you think you can spell?

“Inocent.”

You just read a word with a spelling error that we see in 39% of occurrences of “innocent” in social media. Recent research from the Reading Lab at McMaster demonstrates that spelling errors are harmful in that they make readers “unlearn” the correct spelling, and do so every time an error is encountered. This detrimental effect of variability in spelling affects all readers, even those whose own spelling habits are impeccable.

In two studies using the state-of-the-art eye-tracking technique and a behavioural lexical decision task, undergraduate student Sadaf Rahmanian and Dr. Victor Kuperman at the McMaster Reading Lab showed that readers took longer to recognize words that were spelled correctly, if those words were more frequently misspelled in unedited sources like social media. Sadaf concludes: “Praise be to spell-checkers, literacy instructors, proof-readers and editors, who keep spelling consistent.” The findings were published in the leading journal on literacy and reading research Scientific Studies of Reading.

For the full paper, click here [http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~vickup/Rahmanian-Kuperman-2017.pdf]

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