January 22, 2013

Inauguration Wreaks Havoc with Twitter, Stymies Bad Spellers


Presidential inaugurations can be pretty overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Washington, DC to watch history unfold, millions of dollars are spent on fancy dinners, balls and parades, and pundits work feverishly to figure out if there will be a lasting impact on the political landscape. It’s probably a good thing that the inauguration happens only once every four years, and this especially holds true for both Twitter junkies and bad spellers alike.

Whenever there is a huge event like the Super Bowl, the Oscars or a royal wedding, tweeters flock to the social media site to express their opinions in 140 characters or less. So, it came as no surprise that Twitter experienced heavy traffic during yesterday’ presidential inauguration. During the swearing-in ceremony, the site had to deal with over 18,000 tweets per minute. As a result, some Twitter users had to face the dreaded “fail whale,” which indicates that the site is having trouble. At the peak of the tweeting yesterday, Twitter acknowledged that there were some service disruptions. 

But the inauguration created even greater disturbances in the force yesterday, as it challenged the spelling ability of thousands of people who wanted to blog, tweet or otherwise post about the historic event. The word is tricky to spell, and most people don’t have occasion to use it very often. These factors combined to stymie everyone from the average Joe to the writers at CNN.com

ABC News reported that hundreds of tweets misspelled the word as "inauguration,” "inauguration,” “inauguration," "innoguration," “anauguration” and even "anoguracetion.” CNN spelled it “inaugration” in one article, and TechCrunch, Business Insider and The Atlantic misspelled the tricky word as well.

As a writer, editor and former teacher of the English language, I find it partly amusing and partly disheartening that amateurs and professionals alike had so much trouble with the word. Perhaps we rely too much on spell check these days, or our editing eyes are not as precise or well trained as they need to be. But more than likely, people don’t care if they spell a word right, as long as their audience understands what they mean. The misspellings are mostly harmless, after all, but it’s a slippery slope. One minute you are misspelling inauguration, the next minute you are mixing up “your” and “you’re” and facing the wrath of every grammar geek on the Internet. The moral of the story is, dictionaries are your friends.




Edited by Jamie Epstein



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