Check It Twice

Of all the magic a word processor can perform, I find spell-check to be the most useful, especially while editing dense medical copy. But I’m not too proud to admit that it’s not even the most sinisterly complicated words that my spell-check corrects most often. While I’m focusing on making sure “dysosteogenesis” or “hemocytopoiesis” are spelled correctly, I tend to gloss over the more commonplace language. Sometimes I’ll invert letters (“otolaryngoolgy”) or repeat articles (“the the procedure”) and, thank goodness, spell-check will catch it.

But spell-check is not without its shortcomings. It’s still just a computer program, and it isn’t tuned to the nuances of language with the same attention as a human brain. Spell-check will miss that I meant “through” when I’ve typed “though,” and of course there’s a long list of homophones that spell-check will inevitably ignore (ie, “knew/new,” “waist/waste,” “aisle/isle”). The bottom line is that reading back through your work and not relying solely on spell-check (or any automated process) to do the thinking for you could save you (and has certainly saved me!) a lot embarrassment. For example…

 

 

Spell-check couldn’t have saved those eager tweeters from themselves before they released their thoughts on followers, friends, and family. But a little more attention to detail could have. Tools like spell-check are helpful, but they’re still only tools. When it comes to writing, editing, and engaging in any form of written communication, nothing will serve you better than your own brain— and one more read-through.—Sam Wilder

2 thoughts on “Check It Twice

  1. Thanks for the post. My spell checker used to change “DeAngelis” (the name of my former editor in chief) to “Dunghill.” Certainly put my emails and me at risk despite her extraordinary sense of humor…..

  2. “The bottom line is that reading back through your work and not relying solely on spell-check (or any automated process) to do the thinking for you could save you (and has certainly saved me!) a lot [of] embarrassment.” Oops! That’s a bit ironic. We’ll blame spell-check. 😉

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