Tricky Tuesday: Using Spell Check

While a spell checking tool can be useful, it’s important not to rely on it too much. You’ve probably had plenty of those embarrassing instances when auto correct messes up your text messages. Similarly embarrassing situations can occur if you don’t carefully check your emails, Word documents, or other written work.

Yesterday I told you about my new Malaprop Monday series. In this series, I’ll talk about lots of malaprops that a spell check tool won’t catch – things like using vice instead of vise, wether instead of whether, or flaunt instead of flout. To catch this type of error, you need to do a careful, line-by-line proofread of your work. Spell check will never catch an incorrectly spelled word if the misspelling is an actual word with another meaning.

Another mistake spell check won’t catch is words omitted or added unintentionally. Sure, if the grammar of a sentence is wrong maybe you’ll get that green squiggly underline. But maybe you won’t, and I’ve seen Word’s editing tool underline sentences that were totally correct.

The third thing to watch out for with spell check: you know how you can make it “learn” a word? Be sure you know that word is correct before you add it to your spell checker’s vocabulary. And if it’s a name or something specific that wouldn’t appear in a dictionary, make sure you’re spelling it right before you add it.

Spell check can be helpful as a precursor to real editing, but never trust it with your writing – there’s no substitute for your own eyes (or an editor’s!). I once had a coworker who trusted spell check too much, and he would consistently use “are” in place of “our.” Lesson: don’t be like that.

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