Self-Editing Tip #3: Double-check the Spell Check
Posted on November 15, 2012
For today’s writers, there are many tools available to help with word processing that weren’t available to ye olde writers with quill and ink or the crusty old typewriter with its inky ribbon to ensure a clean manuscript. Tools such as Spell Check and Grammar Check help find a lot of mistakes that we make when quickly tapping on our computer keys.
However, we all know that we’ve finished typing, checked the words underlined in red, questioned the phrases underlined in green, and thought we were finished only to hear that someone else who read your work found a mistake. Here are some things that show that Spell Check and Grammar Check should not be your last editing tool:
1. Homonyms – Those words that sound alike but are spelled differently make us all face palm once in a while. “They’re”, “there”, and “their” are some of the biggest offenders that hang out in your writing like time bombs only to reveal themselves when it’s too late. And our reading minds don’t always catch them, just like spell check.
If you substitute one word for its sound-alike sibling, your brain sometimes glosses right over the mistake. Blame texting? Blame social media online? Not necessarily. But homonyms are a good reason to do another read through even if you run the checks provided by your word processing program.
2. Wrong words spelled right – Another mistake that spell check doesn’t catch is when you spell a word correctly, but it’s the wrong word. If you type in, “I lid to my father,” the check will not pick up that you meant lied. One of the best ways to catch the wrong word choice is to read your work out loud like I talked about in my first blog post. If you read slowly and carefully, you’re more likely to catch if the spell check “lied” to you.
3. Offered fixes – The Grammar Check does catch some easily created mistakes like fragments and run-on sentences. Sometimes it’s right, and sometimes it’s not. When it does think something is wrong, it offers choices in how to fix the problem. However, those choices don’t tend to vary. And some of the choices, like semi-colons, are offered too often (not that semi-colons are bad – they have their places). Variety may be the spice of life, and we sure do want variety in our own writing.
Spell Check and Grammar Check are not evil. They are great tools that can help alert you to many errors in your own writing. Even if they find something that isn’t really wrong (which has happened to me), their alerts aren’t the worst thing to happen to you. Making you go back and examine your wording or rethink how something is written can actually strengthen your work.
Just make sure that after you’ve checked your document with them that you then sit down and double-check
there they’re their work.