The Elephant in the closet, or dyslexia and should one wear a big red D?

Apologies in advance, not a marketing post, just a rant or a musing with some questions for others that deal with it to. Its been an interesting month plus lately and I think perhaps some things have getting under my skin more then others, but in this case it raised an interesting question about how others with dyslexia deal with comments and situations associated with it.

Yesterday I wrote a brief blog post about marketing on twitter for inns and was a bit floored by a comment I got on the post.

Suggestion: spell check. It’s so disappointing to try to read something you’re interested in, only to be sidetracked by misspellings and bad grammar. I like your posts, but remember, the only contact I have with you is through your writing. Poor attention to your presentation is like showing up at an event with your hair uncombed, a dirty sweatshirt and mis-matched socks.”

I almost deleted the email but decided to publish as I believe it’s important to be open & frank about these things and decided instead to post a response. “Dear James, thank you for the comment, if you would like to spell-check/grammar check my posts it would be appreciated. I have dyslexia, something I don’t generally share with people and spell/grammar check does not always catch things that should be caught. I do try to read and reread things several times prior to publishing, but “reading” something to fix is not so easy as it “looks”.”

I know I am not the spiffiest of writers, never have been and being dyslexic, probably never will be, until some day, down the road, Skynet will come and reconfigure my brain and I can tell left from right easily. I write much like I talk in person, never much felt the urge or inclination to write much until about a year ago and am still learning as I go along and if I “suck” at writing, so be it. My real feeling is, if you don’t like it, go elsewhere, there are plenty of other blogs to read out there. Sadly I can’t change the mismatched socks part, its part of my neural wiring.

The comment though, raises an interesting quandary and one I have never been “challenged” on before. I’ve written many articles, not just for my blog but for other sites, proofread many things others have sent me, been published in several places but have never been told before that my writing style (if you can call it that) sucked.

It wasn’t discovered I had dyslexia until I was in college, it explained why I disliked school so much prior and did very poorly in math amongst other things. Break out the “Poor baby” here. No thanks very much.

Things do slip by me that spell-check and generally grammar checker don’t catch. Occasionally I’ll catch an email back to me from someone and I re-read what I wrote and there are some “the thes” or “they theys” or words backwards or the occasional channeling of my mentor Yoda, but not much I can do about them. Considering many of the documents I get sent on a weekly basis are misspelled with bad grammar as well, it makes me wonder if more people deal with this then previously suspected or perhaps they are just lazy.

Very, very occasionally something comes up where I have to explain or apologize that I have dyslexia, “much apologies for the duplicate words or what have you, will fix pronto.”  I occasionally get the “well you should have said something”. Like I should have warned them in advance that I have a “disability”? I always feel vaguely embarrassed the few times I have had to actually say something about it.

I spent 20 years cooking professionally and did quite well at it, I have a thriving business I started almost 8 years ago.  Should I put in bold red flashing letters at the top of every blog post and on my website: “Apologies in advance for spelling and grammatical mistakes, but I have a ‘gasp’ disability.” “Oh forgive me please, I have need of a little ego stroking because I’m functioning a few gears lose of a motor?” Can you sense the sarcasm here?

So this raises the question, I don’t think I have a disability, although technically I have one, I am not proud of it but nor does it disturb me overly much and it’s not something I generally even think about. Should I be using this somehow to garner something from it? Should I even care what someone I have no idea if its even a real person thinks? Should I be wearing a big red D on my sweater to identify the fact I am dyslexic?

I could mention here the fact (as an aside) that posting something like that on someone’s blog post was not very nice. Yes I could have deleted it but then I would always wonder if this was a business person that could be a potential client and if this is what he really thinks of me then I’m not very happy about it.

I am a big fan of constructive criticism but I don’t think telling someone that “the only contact I have with you is through your writing” is very polite or quite frankly constructive, because no, you don’t know me or anything about me. So presuming to tell me that I am apparently not very well educated (which is what I got out of the comment) is kind of like saying, “Dude, you ran the mile in 20 minutes? You should have run faster!” (insert the fact that the runner only has one leg and a crutch.)  Should I have put somewhere in my bio, “Hey everyone, I’m dyslexic? Pity me, poor me, I so need a crutch as an excuse when I screw up?” Snark!

My questions I guess behind all of this verbal diarrhea, is primarily for others that suffer from dyslexia and of course I am very interested in what “normal” (yes that was sarcastic) people have to say about it as well.

  • How do you or have you responded to a comment like the one I received?
  • How do others with dyslexia respond to things like this?
  • Do others with dyslexia make a point of telling people? And why? Or why not?
  • If you knew someone had dyslexia prior to working with them would it change how you viewed them as a person or their work?
  • Did Charles Schwab and Steve Jobs have to use it as an excuse? or even tell people about it? Did it really matter in the long run?

P.S. I do very much appreciate the catches and suggestions from readers when I get the occasional DM or email about mistakes and I do try to fix them, so please keep them coming, as they do occasionally come in. I am appreciative of the fact that people do tell me NICELY when I’ve made a mistake.



About Chef Forfeng

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11 Responses to The Elephant in the closet, or dyslexia and should one wear a big red D?

  1. tophermalpractices says:


    Thank you so much for your article. I am 27 and currently am 1 month away from my finals. I think I too have always been a in-the-closet dyslexic. It’s not a I have a problem with grammar or with spelling, but when I write, it seems that the logic or grasp for grammar simply does not exist to me. I mean I am pedantic as well as I do re-read and check but I guess they just do not come forward… I do wonder sometimes if it’s an inadequacy on my part ( or am I reading/seeing the same way other people are looking at my text). I have been told many times before in my academic writing that I would need proof-reading support and that my grammar needs help. It is really heart-wrenching ( at home) when I read feedbacks and when in the exact term get remarks like ” it’s hard to get to the content pass the grammar-errors”.

    Hence I have tried to be ultra critical and just about 10 minutes ago out of curiosity, started to read about dyslexia and it’s attributes… and from the sounds of your blog, I could preliminarily say I go through the exact frightening process all the time. I don’t know really if it would make much difference but, I guess in critical situations where it might affect performance of others, it might be wise to divulge info such as dyslexia so there is mutual awareness, and contingencies can be put in place. I am going to take a 5 mins break now. Thanks for this article.

    God my sentences don’t make sense, I can’t bring myself to edit it. I might come back to re-write this.

    • Chef Forfeng says:

      I understand. It may be helpful to get an actual diagnoses, there are many different types of dyslexia and many of them do have things out there that can help.

  2. Dee says:

    Hi, I think your writing is very eloquent and expressive. So what if there were a few mispellings or typos on another post….and quite frankly the comment from that person would have made my blood boil. I also have dyslexia, and your post really hit home to me. I worry too much when I write reports for work or emails…that they take me twice as long as someone without dyslexia…

    …and I agree with the comment above…they probably a touch of OCD!

  3. Karl says:

    As a sometime writer and full time spewer of snarkiness and sarcasm, I know what you’re going through. Those of us who choose to publish our thoughts, which can feel like an extension of ourselves, immediately go on the defensive. However, once the initial sting subsides we look at the criticism as a whole. While I agree with the intent of what your critic was trying to do, make you aware of a writing fundamental, the execution was absolutely awful. I think you handled it beautifully and in a much more professional manner than the “Thank you for the terribly accurate criticism of my work. I always appreciate anything that can make me a better writer. I’m happy, too, that your mother has decided to get you a high speed connection for your basement “apartment” so that we could have this interaction. It’s good to see that all the time you’ve spent pouring over pictures of Jennifer Love Hewitt has somehow made you so enlightened that it’s given you license to lecture me on my own site. Perhaps I should bring you on board full time to monitor not only my grammar and spelling but also my hair care, laundry techniques, and choices in hosiery since you are equally adept at all of those.”

    See… good thing it was you….

  4. David g says:

    Your website = your rules.

    End of story.

  5. Colleen Fournier says:

    ALLELUIA – I don’t think the D on the sweat shirt would be the right approach BUT the rest of the population needs to be educated about Dyslexia. I home school my PROFOUNDLY dyslexic son so I see huge examples of what it affects in all aspects of his life. Because his wiring is so prominently dyslexic, I can now recognize the signs of in very mild Dyslexics who get ZERO understanding & help, especially in schools.

    A few stats to illustrate: approx 60% of our prison population has learning disorders (maybe if schools did a better job we could build fewer prisons), 12% – 15% of the population falls within the D category, from mild to profound, that is 1 out every 7 kids! D is @ 50/50 the most inheritable trait, ie every kid of a dyslexic parent has a 50% chance of being a D, and it does skip generations; my kid was sure to have it, as his Dad is also in the severe range & 2 of my 6 siblings are Ds.

    40% of self made millionaires in the UK & US are Dyslexic per some studies, TA DA! Ds have some big advantages which we as a society should stop trashing & wasting! I would guess the Industrial revolution would have been much slower to arrive, if the Ds (who think in mechanical 3d pictures) had not been there to dream up and build the stuff!

    I home school my kid because the #1 thing schools actually do for Dyslexics is make them feel stupid, humiliated & inadequate! In addition, about 98% of the education ‘PROFESSIONALS’ have almost no clue of what D is even though it was identified in 1860s in educational research! Gazillions have been spent on why Johnny can’t read but the implementation on the front lines is wholly inadequate & I would guess only about 1% of Ds receive the ‘free & appropriate public education” they have a right to, & actually get anything in the way of accommodations to give them their education. Ok I will jump off the soap box and go do the algebra lesson with the kid !

  6. I adore your mismatched socks Heather!

    Never apologise for being dyslexic! I’ve taught for almost 20 years and see on a daily basis the struggle many children have to do something that many of us take for granted! Your articals are better written and composed than many that I see on the internet and let’s face it … none of us are perfect, we all make errors from time to time!!

    You were right to leave this person’s comment on your blog; it reflects the ignorance and intolerance that too many people have for others!

  7. Kiki says:

    …..and then consider the fact that the offending writer in question most likely suffers from OCD…..the world turns round and round…..we are all abled/disabled somehow!

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