Are you one of the 1.2 billion people globally with dyslexia? Do you want to be a writer? If so, read on to discover three practical suggestions to help you achieve your goals.
By TESS GADD
‘So, you are both creatives?’ the headmistress asked my parents, who I presume were both wearing the very best and worst of what 90s fashion had to offer.
‘Yes, we are both graphic designers,’ replied my father.
Sighing, the headmistress said, ‘Well, she will probably be dyslexic,’ while nodding her head towards fidgeting five-year-old me.
And, that old headmistress was right. I was dyslexic – very dyslexic. According to the British Dyslexia Association, a few of the most common dyslexic traits include erratic or inconsistent spelling, reading and writing slowly, having difficulties organising thoughts on paper, among others.
As you can imagine, these aren’t exactly the qualities one wants as a writer.
Like most dyslexics, I have never grown out of it, as much as I have built up strategies and tools to deal with it. Today, I want to share with you the three strategies I use to overcome my dyslexia when it comes to my writing.
1. Use proofreading tools to check spelling and grammar
The problem with plain old spell check is that it can only pick up words spelled incorrectly, and not correctly spelled words in the wrong situation. For example, ‘It made a hug difference!’ is just not something a simple spellchecker would ever pick up.
Enter Grammarly. I have been using the pro version for a year now, and it has made such a difference to my writing. Not only does it pick up mistakes, but it is also improves my ability to edit and proofread my own work. Writer Sarah Lloyd says Grammarly ‘is like having a second pair of eyes behind the screen’.
2. Change your scenario when reviewing your writing and spelling
I find that when reading through an article of mine, I have to change my scenery to get out of my ‘doing’ brain and into my ‘reviewing’ brain. Some people even refer to this as changing hats. Usually, I will move to the couch and play my ‘thinking’ music.
When reviewing my article structure, I will read from top to bottom. Then when checking to see that my individual sentences make sense, I read from bottom to top, sentence by sentence. This helps me catch mistakes that Grammarly may have missed, or arguments that don’t make sense.
- Think Proofreading Isn’t Important? Think Again… – By Greg Walker
- The One Surprising Tip That Will Make You A Better Writer
- How Writers Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome
3. Focus on your writer’s voice, not your spelling
Failed school assignments, confused friends on WhatsApp, giggling colleagues in boardrooms while you write on the whiteboard: as a dyslexic, your writing confidence would have undoubtedly been knocked quite a lot in your life. It is rather unfortunate that people link one’s ability to spell correctly with one’s intelligence.
So, I ask you to put aside your idea of what a writer is for a moment.
If a writer were just someone who could write cohesive sentences and never make spelling mistakes, it would be a pretty dull field, wouldn’t it? There are AIs that can happily write perfectly structured sentences and scripts with only a few prompts.
We have so many tools to take care of the spelling, but not the tools to bring a fresh and new perspective to the world. Focus on your voice and your message, and the rest will follow.
I hope that these three strategies will help dyslexics and non-dyslexics alike. Everyone has a story to tell, a message to share, or a lesson to teach. Don’t let your light hide behind your disability.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tess Gadd is an interface designer specializing in edTech who aims to share her passion and thoughts about product design. She is most well known for her series of tutorials called the UI Cheat Sheets published on UX Collective. When she isn’t writing and designing, you can probably find her on a Cape Town hiking trail or with her nose buried in a book.