Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It's dangerous to trust a sepll-checker, or to not use one


While the spell-checking function in word processing software will usually — but not always — spot an improperly spelled word, it won’t spot a wrong word that’s spelled correctly.

In the surprise bestseller, Go the F*ck to Sleep, Adam Mansbach wrote, “The lambs have laid down with the sheep.”
• “Laid” is spelled correctly, but the correct word is “lain.”


In The Successful Writer’s Handbook, Patricia L. Fry wrote, “One writer I know had a cubical constructed in her garage to use as an office.”
• “Cubical” is spelled correctly, but the correct word is “cubicle.”


In Best in Self-Publishing & Print-on-demand, David Rising  wrote, “for all participates.”
• “Participates” is not a spelling error; it’s the wrong word. “Participants” was the right word, but the spell-checking robot didn’t realize it.


In Release Your Writing, Helen Gallagher wrote, “They work is not cheap . . . .” 
• “They” is spelled correctly. Unfortunately, the correct word is “Their.”


In an early version of one of my books, I typed “The photographer will be thrilled to have a subject who does not vomit on her, or require funny faces to illicit a smile.”
• “Illicit is a properly spelled but incorrect word. The correct word is “elicit.” Editor Sheila M. Clark caught the error.


While you can’t rely 100% on your spell-checker software, you should use it.

In Principles of Self Publishing, Theresa A. Moore wrote about an alleged “exhorbitant shipping fee” The fee was actually reasonable, but the spelling is not. There is no “h” in “exorbitant.”
  • A spell checker would have caught the error.
Theresa wrote, “I don't use the spell checker. I use a dictionary. Oxford American. The standard spelling I learned had an ‘h.’”

She probably was taught properly, but confused “exorbitant” with “exhort.” She also misspelled “propaganda.”

Ironically, Theresa says, “a misspelled word can stand out like a red flag in a cornfield” and “It is vitally important for you to have a clear grasp of spelling . . . .” She’s right about that, but did not heed her own warning. Pathetic.

It’s good to have a dictionary, but unless you’re unsure about a word, you won’t check it. A spell-checker, while imperfect, is on duty even when you have no doubt.

(Graphic image from http://www.cn-printing.com/. Thanks.)

1 comment:

  1. And as we all (most of us?) hopefully know, nothing replaces a quality editor who not only will catch those smaller errors, but can also offer insight into word choice, sentence structure, and so many other elements of writing. Spell-check is a wonderful, helpful feature, but it's not the only tool that should be used when writing and editing a book. Thank you, Michael.

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