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Why good spelling is vital for a recording engineer

If you can't spell, then you can't be a recording engineer. Learn which words absolutely have to be spelled correctly.

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Spelling, other than for dyslexics, is often a good indicator of education. Therefore if you can spell, you can get a good job. If you can't, then you stack shelves in a warehouse.

But almost everyone has 'gray words' where they cannot, no matter how often they check, remember the correct spelling. Anyone who claims to have perfect spelling cannot be a recording engineer simply because they are incapable of correctly assessing the quality of their achievements.

However, recording is a discipline where there are very few who have the determination, persistence and career opportunities to work to the required level for commercial success. So it shouldn't really matter whether a recording engineer can spell properly, should it?

Well in fact it does, particularly for an assistant engineer, whose career will fail at the first hurdle if some areas of good spelling are not adhered to 100%. And remember that an assistant engineer will be writing down a lot of information during the course of a session.

There are two words that have to be spelled correctly at every possible opportunity. And if you don't spell them correctly, you will get fired after the first warning.

Those two words (sometimes three, sometimes even just one)...?

The artist's name.

Artists of all kinds, including the musicians that recording engineers will encounter every day, trade on their name. Their name is their brand.

And if you spell their name wrongly, you are in effect telling them that you don't care about them, and in fact that you don't even properly recognize their brand.

Not only will the artist be insulted, they will hate you for spelling their name wrongly.

So what option does a studio manager have if you, as an assistant engineer, persist in making this mistake? Keep you on and allow you to continually insult the studio's clients? Or give you a warning the first time, and fire you the second?

Don't forget other matters too. It's 'k.d.' lang, not 'K.D. Lang'. Oh, and notice that it's 'k.d.', not 'kd'. Sometimes there is some leeway - you will see both 'the Beatles' and 'The Beatles' in their official texts. But play safe and check, if in the slightest doubt at all.

The same applies to song titles. Song titles have to be spelled correctly too. Sometimes song titles use deliberate (or accidental) misspellings. Use whatever the artist says is correct.

Not only is it an insult to the artist to write their song title incorrectly, it could also potentially affect the distribution of royalties. That is how important it is.

So no matter how naturally poor at spelling you are, there are certain things that should be spelled 100% correctly all of the time. Here's a shortlist. There may be more...

  • Artist/band name
  • Song title
  • Publisher
  • Record label
  • Producer
  • Engineer
  • TV/radio programs
  • Movie titles
  • Theater names
  • Lastly - assistant engineer. That's you! You do want people to remember you correctly, don't you?
By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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