Does spelling matter to radio? Depends whether you’re on it or in it

Comment from Peter Saxon.

It’s been a few years since we addressed language used on-air. Back in 2016 in an article entitled Should radio news be read in English, we bemoaned the trend to use Americanisms such as sidewalk instead of footpath and phrases like “lock-down” or “do the math.” 
And how did the unisex word “guys” replace the infinitely more refined Ladies and Gentlemen? Even in a fancy restaurant the waiter might ask, “And how are you guys doing tonight?” My usual retort is, “Mr and Mrs guys to you.” 
Looking back at that article, it is interesting to see how much has changed and more so, the rate of that change in the intervening three years.
While American culture has taken decades to envelop our language, texting and twitter with their demand for both speed and brevity at the expense of accuracy has forced us to develop a new form of shorthand. Now with a rapidly growing palate of emoji to draw from, the latest trend has been to move away from words altogether, using pictures instead. 
Thousands of years from now archaeologists digging up relics from the 21stcentury might struggle to find an explanation as to how such an advanced civilisation had somehow lost its written communication and language skills and was forced to revert to the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt.
One mannerism, constantly heard on air, that has (sadly) survived since 2016, is the universal answer to any question, “Yeah, no.” Sometimes delivered with a twist, “No, yeah.” To me this phrase only makes sense if it’s the result of a fiendishly clever subliminal campaign for the horse racing industry to implant in our psyche the desire for an each way bet.
Also with us is the throwaway line that should have been thrown away years ago: Of course. As in, “Our next contestant is, of course, none other than Mabel Krebbs with her magic plunger.” There’s nothing, “of course” about it. No one in the room, including the MC, had a clue who Mabel was before she was introduced.
Recently joining forces with “of course” is the word “obviously.” People use it in sentence after sentence when there’s nothing obvious about what comes next. “Feeling hungry, I obviously decided to take a cab to the airport.” Even though the next sentence could explain why someone might go to the airport if they felt hungry, there’s no way it would be obvious to the listener at the original point of insertion.


My current bug bear is the abbreviation of the word “have” when suffixed to another word. For example, “Could have” shortened to “could’ve” or “should have” to “should’ve.” On air, when these and similar abbreviations are spoken, they sound the same as “should of” or “might of” which, of course, make no sense in English.
So what?  I hear you ask.  As long as the listener is not confused as to what’s being said, who cares how you spell it?
You make a good point, gentle reader.
However, my issue is not with what’s said but what’s written. And “might of,” “should of” is starting to appear in written correspondence. 
Ah, I hear you persist, but it’s still radio.
True, but I found a “could of” in a media release from a radio network just the other week. 
In another instance, a young announcer at a regional station emailed me to say that he “broadcasted” his show for 24 hours straight. Of course, there’s no past tense of broadcast. Obviously, that wasn’t obvious to wasn’t obvious to him.
Yes, we’re in radio but we still communicate with clients and other business partners via written media.
If you wouldn’t go to a business meeting looking shabby, then you shouldn’t write emails riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. With the help of spellcheck, obviously, a few typos are inevitable – even I have been known to let the odd one slip through (insert applicable emoji here.). However, while the language still offers some level decorum and before it slips into anarchy, it’s worth the trouble to try to get it right. No?

Peter Saxon