Phonics ruined me. In the 1970’s it started in the third grade.

I had been cruising nicely through first and second grade, unaware of the linguistic brick wall I was heading towards. Reading was never a problem, my parents were wonderful and read to me every night, and I already loved books. Spelling, however, turned out to be quite a different issue.

Suddenly words were made of upside-down letters with sideways colons on top and random apostrophes. I remember looking at one sentence and thinking ‘oh, that’s written in Greek, like some of Dad’s books’. Dad was a chemist. Tortuous hours were spent in class sounding out words I could read perfectly well, followed by spelling class where western was not ‘wes-trǝ’.

Things were complicated by the fact my parents traveled and would bring back foreign picture books for me. I loved British Countryside with over 500 Colour Plates, and a huge tussle ensued when I insisted on that spelling. Life got much better when I discovered programming and found I could name variables whatever I wanted, as long as I was consistent. Most computer languages only have about thirty or so verbs, and a short list of conjunctions. I can logically nest to the eighth level with ease, although working with fussy compilers has taught me to pay attention to punctuation.

As a writer I depend heavily on Microsoft Word and my excellent copy editor to keep me in line. I’ve heard Phonics died a well-deserved death, but you’ll still see me twitch if I run across phonemes and graphemes. And don’t get me started on diphthongs.