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The Spell Check and Some Potential Pitfalls

You all need to check your spelling for mistakes. Bet you are happy that you have a spell checker.

Here is the description again written completely wrong.

Ewe awl ned too cheque hour spilling fir miss takes, bit ewe area hippy hat ewe half a spill chequer.

When it comes to writing things it is important to always keep an eye on the way you are spelling things. One good way to do this is to use a spell checker. What could be simpler than pressing a button to check that you have spelt everything correctly? But there is a problem with most spell checkers, they only check the spelling of each individual word, so what you have written may be a word spelt right but it is the wrong word entirely. It could be the case of an extra letter in a word, or maybe a letter missing. Perhaps it is just that while typing you may accidentally have hit the wrong letter. Shame that a spell checker will not have picked up on it.

Ok why don’t we have a look at the second sentence of the above paragraph;

And one good way to do this is to use a spell checker.

That makes complete sense, but does the following?

Any won hood weigh too do thin is two used spill chequer.

Of course that makes no sense at all, it seems to be random words thrown together to make some kind of gibberish. If you directly compare it to the original sentence you can see what has happened.

With the words (one), (way), (to) and (checker) you can easily see how in the second sentence they have changed to words that still sound the same but mean something entirely different causing the sentence to make less sense. Your spell checker would not pick up on these wrong spellings as the words are not spelled wrong at all, they are just the wrong words for what you are trying to say.

With the words (and), (good), (this) and (spell) you will find how in the second sentence they have had a change of letter which leaves them redundant for what you are trying to write but a spell checker will not highlight them as such.

With the word (use) it has changed tense to past tense. Again a spell check would not pick up on this.

Oh and one last thing, what happened between (use) and (spell)? The word (a) seems to have disappeared completely. Always be careful about such things, not typing a small word can have disastrous effects.

Ok the example of the above sentence is a bit extreme and if ever anyone wrote that second sentence (the wrong one) when they were meaning to write the first one (the correct one) then maybe writing would not be for them. But, even the best writers make mistakes, it is easy enough to do. Those mistakes may not be picked up by a spell check, so what can you do?

By all means use a spell check on your writing it is what it is there for. But, never rely on it wholly. If you want to make sure what you have typed is what you wanted to type read it for yourself. Better yet, print it out and read it and use a pen or pencil to highlight any words that are wrong. Or, even better, get someone else to check it for you. It can be hard to spot mistakes that you have made yourself but others may find them easily.

Even if you find yourself making many mistakes in your writing do not despair as practice really does make perfect. With practice, not only will spelling get better but you will also find your writing improves too and that is the really important thing.

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22 Responses to “The Spell Check and Some Potential Pitfalls”
  • Erin Cree
    January 7th, 2009 at 5:32 am

    good advice. My spelling has always been bad so I have to rely on the spell check but always edit my work a number of times, to check Ive used the right words. And I do wish Id paid more attention to grammer at school.

  • cardy
    January 8th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    i need all the help i can get with my spelling i liked this very much.

  • payge
    January 13th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Very informative article you have written,it does help.Thats why I go over my work several times between spell check and a dictionary.My mistakes are getting better.

  • Majic
    January 31st, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Thanks for reminding us Allistair. But one good reason why many writers here don’t take the effort to improve is because they got tons of readers giving them kiss@$$ comments on their mediocre articles. I myself find it hard to make constructive criticisms when I see a line of “adoring public” before me.

  • K Kristie
    January 31st, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Good post!

  • mizdi
    January 31st, 2009 at 7:24 am

    nice article.. im very good at spelling, my problem is typo errors..LOL no kidding… sometimes i submit comments or shouts hurriedly b4 i realized i made a typo.. :( but im more careful with my posts.

  • nutuba
    January 31st, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Great article!

  • Juancav
    January 31st, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Good post,my problem is that English is not my native language and I use traductor on line to support me,but makes mistakes,very similar.Thank you.

  • Joni Keith
    January 31st, 2009 at 10:17 am

    This is great information. I agree with Magic’s comment somewhat. It’s difficult to give constructive criticism when the author has a page of adoring fans leaving compliments not comments. As difficult as it is, I try to read the article substituting what I think the author meant to say. It can be frustrating.

    On the other hand, I always appreciate an article that uses correct spelling and proper grammar. This was a good one.

  • Olivia Reason
    January 31st, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    This is very helpful, Alistair. A good reference tool with impeccable grammar and spelling.

  • Lauren Axelrod
    January 31st, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Excellent and very helpful. Sorry, passing by.

  • ArtSiren
    February 5th, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Your article makes a good point – I haven’t used a spell checker for years. It is very common to see words written as they sound when spoken: for example, “then” instead of “than”; or “he must of…” instead of “he must have…”. A spell checker wouldn’t pick them out. I use the same method as Joni Keith and sub in what I think the author meant to say.

  • rutherfranc
    February 9th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    really just takes a click.. thanks for the share..

  • Emma C S
    February 9th, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I’m sure a lot of people will find this very useful. Spelling used to be a major issue for me, these days my problem is trying to find where to put semicolons!

  • Alina Beck
    February 9th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Very true. My personal nemesis is than/that. It’s not that I don’t know the difference, but it’s an error I make all the time when typing – my fingers just seem to do their own thing! I know it makes me seem like a terrible pedant, but I’m always really put off by content (printed or on the internet) that contains many mistakes of grammar/spelling. Maybe it’s the teacher in me! :-)

  • Katien
    February 9th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    It’s always worth checking and re-checking!

  • papaleng
    February 10th, 2009 at 10:07 am

    a very intertesting and helpful article.

  • Kimberly
    March 12th, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Great Advice!:)

  • nutuba
    March 12th, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Excellent article — great advice.

  • Denise Kawaii
    March 15th, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Spellcheck isn’t always right… but most people who use it forget that!

  • Tusaani
    April 10th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    It annoys me the most when it changes automatically: especially on MS Word. It’s hard because I’m Canadian so I spell some of the words different than Americans so words like ‘honour’ automatically change to ‘honor’. It’s cost me in school assignments before!

  • MaxBuceo
    September 19th, 2010 at 10:43 am

    great post!… i like it

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