Spell Check Isn’t Foolproof!

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“But it can’t have spelling mistakes! I ran spell check!” I hear this quite often. While running spell check on your documents is very important, it certainly is not a foolproof means of making sure that your documents are error free.

Spell check will let you know if there is a group of letters in your document that doesn’t actually form a word. If you type “fjdklfjdlf” into a document, spell check will catch that this isn’t an actual word. However, if you send an email to your mom asking her to buy you a new “pear of pants,” spell check won’t let you know that you should have used pair instead of pear.

No matter how careful you are with spell check, there is no substitute for (a) proofreading your work yourself and (b) having someone else proof it for you. There’s no substitute for a common sense check. There are too many similar words in a language to ever be able rely 100% on spell check to get rid of all of your spelling errors.

I’m a professional writer and business communications trainer, and I know from personal experience that you can’t always trust spell check. One of my more entertaining typos that spell check didn’t catch occurred in an article I wrote a few weeks ago about wedding anniversary gifts.

This is what I wrote: with love and infection
This is what I meant: with love and affection

Fortunately, I proofed my work before sending it to the client for publication. I laughed when I caught the error, because it is kind of funny and ironic, but I don’t think my client would have been very entertained.

If the article had gone to the client with this mistake, I could very well have lost a project. Don’t use spell check as a crutch. Don’t take a chance on losing business or sounding ignorant just because you won’t take the time to proofread your work. Just remember there’s no substitute for common cents. Oops, sense! Darn that spell check!

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10 thoughts on “Spell Check Isn’t Foolproof!”

  1. This is absolutely true, spell checkers won’t catch every error on your text, and I can say more: they won’t do it until AI gets sufficiently advanced to come with something useful on natural language processing (here I define useful as some “mental” capacity near to adult human understanding).

    Good tip Mary! 🙂

  2. How write you are. Its important two get into the habit of double checking your contentment an make sure you are happy priory to posting. You will not have to altar it after wards and u won’t leave a bad impression on your reader ship.

    The inbuilt spell checker here saw nothing wrong in the above.

  3. Daniel and Sue, I am just enjoying this. Who said learning could never be fun? Well, can we not publish a book entitled: “How to Become a Prolific Proofreader Without Really Trial” (without really trying) 🙂 (My spell checker didn’t find anything wrong with that.)

  4. My favorite spell check “foe paw” occurred about twenty years ago while typing a letter using an early version of WordPerfect (although I’m now a MS Word user, I’m sure WP’s checker is better now than then!).

    The subject of my letter was a real estate matter and the text contained the term “demised premises”. Thankfully, I DID proofread before signing and mailing the letter wherein WP had CORRECTED my typo of the word “premises” and automatically (without prompting me)changed it to read “demised penises”.

    You can sure, that my head would’ve been drooping low had I not caught THAT one!

  5. I found at one stage (in Word 2003 I think) a way of creating a list of frequently confused words – it underlined them in blue wiggly lines (as opposed to the usual red for spelling errors) – that was useful – though you had to have anticipated the errors you were likely to make before hand … which mayn’t have helped the previous poster with his premises!

  6. If you use Microsoft Word, the later versions will correct your grammar by underlining it in green. It works a lot of the time, although it gets annoying when it tries to give you false corrections.

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