A friend of mine who subscribes to Wordsmith.org recently sent me a word-of-the-day that I knew I wanted to blog about: cacography. Cacography (kuh-KOG-ruh-fee) is both simply defined as “bad handwriting” and “incorrect spelling.” The site summary adds an explanation of this word’s history/derivation: “From caco– (bad), from Greek kakos (bad) + –graphy (writing). Caco is ultimately from the Indo-European root kakka-/kaka– (to defecate) which also gave us poppycock, cacophony, and cucking stool.”
It might seem surprising that I’m blogging about bad spelling in a massage context given that we’re not exactly in the rooms working crossword puzzles. But good spelling, and to expand the topic, good grammar are both helpful and necessary in ALL professional fields for various reasons (credibility and clarity to name just two.) And I’m not referring to charting, which is done many times on-the-fly with a bad pen; with charting, you try to do the best you can in the most legible way possible. But most professional communication in massage (e.g. email, newsletters, etc.) involves a computer and a spell-check and perhaps even Internet access to further spelling/grammatical resources. So even if you are one of those people who blame teachers for some people’s inability to learn how to use a comma after ten or so years of repeating and practicing the concept in public school, you can still see that software helps to work around this deficiency.
When I was teaching College English, a student once complained to me that he didn’t see why he was graded for grammar and spelling when he was taking a class on literature. WELL, DUH. That’s one of those moments as an English teacher when you slip outside to take deep breaths and think about trees or something or go raving insane in front of 24 freshmen. However, that student’s attitude is shared by many, and I have even met them in the massage business. I have seen people who routinely produced writing for public consumption that was laughably bad. And I do mean that: when they weren’t wincing, various members of the intended audience were laughing, which is not a good thing. Because truthfully, credibility in authority has to involve literacy . . . at least in this culture. And good communication implies that we are not laughing (or crying) and saying “what the heck does that MEAN?”
No, massage therapists and the non-therapists working with us aren’t professional writers, and our/their writing does not have to be perfect. But we are all professionals, and should, I believe, at the very least shoot for writing that is clean and clear and doesn’t read like a bunch of . . . poppycock.