Spell Check: Nice but not fail-safe

I love spell check. I readily admit it. As a 4-decade-old professional writer, I miss the heft and fun factor of Webster’s dictionary – taking it off the shelf, flipping through hundreds of pages and, bam, there’s your word. I probably learned a better vocabulary by gazing at words adjacent to the one I was seeking. That was interesting.

Now Microsoft has made it so much easier to get copy written and checked. Little red lines and similar little blue lines appear like magic. Oops! Didn’t see that extra space! And it’s so easy to see when you’ve left the “r” out of government. Technology is useful!

But, technology is not a substitute for good, old-fashioned grammar, correct spelling and punctuation.

You see, there’s trouble in them thar hills. And, during 18 years of teaching college journalism students, I clearly saw the problem.
Simply put, a person’s blind reliance following spell check will result in some serious mistakes.

As you know, the computer and software are fast, efficient and amazing. But they still cannot think as we do. The word checker doesn’t always know the difference between “to” and “too.” The computer program doesn’t understand there’s a difference between public relations and pubic relations. Oh, sure, you may get the little, blue line thing, but if you’re not careful, you may be quite embarrassed at the next PR society meeting.

There can be problems with there and their. More issues with it’s and it. And remember, a computer isn’t giving you consistent advice about where punctuation fits in. For example, where does the period really go? Inside or outside the quote? “Four score and seven years ago,” I may have known the answer.
And, is it OK to use “and” at the start of a sentence? Yes, it is, if done so with an understanding of why you are doing such a thing.

“Irregardless“ is flagged, and for good reason. It’s one of the most prevalent mistakes in language and, regardless of what you may think, it is important to know there is no such word as irregardless.

But, there’s a big issue catching common mistakes. I heard one in an HBO series this week. The actor said, “He could care less.” Oops again. If he could care less, he could. It’s actually supposed to be, “He couldn’t care less.” These types of guffaws are not corrected by our computer friend.

Too be frank, its really difficult to catch errors. Their are many potholes in our road to success. But, with a little assistant, you can get them out of your pros.

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