Knowing which is the correct spelling of a word is hugely complicated by words which sound the same. When we say your and you’re or there, their and they’re they sound exactly the same and, of course, we learn to speak way before we learn to write so the sounds become embedded before we know the words are spelt differently. These words are called homophones.
The reverse of this, and adding to the confusion, is words that are spelt the same but have different meanings. Again, it’s only when you learn to write that you realise the words wind and wind are spelt the same. These words are called homographs.
To complicate matters even further we have punctuation. Now, punctuation is something which some of us see as very important to get right (or as right as we can – this is my get-out-of-jail-free-card in case I have made any mistakes here!), whereas, for many people, it means nothing at all.
The big question is; does it really matter? Please don’t ask Lynn Truss (of ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves‘ fame) that question! If you think about the way language evolves over time and how each generation introduces new words (texted, bromance, bling, chillax) into our everyday language, including words that never existed before (like Google), then the answer is mildly yes but probably mostly not really.
That doesn’t make it right to get things wrong of course but, in everyday life, there are probably more important things to worry about than somebody typing their when they meant there and your when they mean you’re (it still makes me raise my eyebrows and tut judgementally though).
Unless, of course, when it’s made public where more than a few get to see it. When you’re a newspaper editor, an advertiser or a sign-writer mistakes are just plain unprofessional, not to mention embarrassing but when you have spelling mistakes tattooed on your body, it’s probably just plain stupid.
There are some brilliant examples of this where a little punctuation would make a world of difference or where using the wrong spelling of a word makes you look rather silly:
Here are some examples which are nothing less than unprofessional, where they really should have known better:
Clearly, they just don’t get punctuation here:
Words fail me: