Why Relying On Spell Check Alone Isn’t Enough

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We’ve all been there. We sit behind a desk for hours, feverishly typing our thoughts. Four stressful hours and five cups of coffee later, we’re convinced we’ve written the “perfect” paper. We press the “send” button with a sense of accomplishment as the assignment is delivered to our professor/client/boss’ inbox. But soon we realize our perfect paper is far from that. The paper is soiled with spelling errors. We wonder, “How can I have spelling mistakes? I used spell check!”

There’s no rule saying you can’t use spell check. I actually think running spell check is important when you’re typing up a document. But it definitely should not be your only means of proofreading what you write.

Spell check will let you know if there is a group of letters that doesn’t form a word. For instance, if I type junp instead of jump, spell check with catch it. However, it will not recognize that a word is spelled wrong if it is used in the wrong context. If I type, “I red Tina Fey’s book,” instead of “I read Tina Fey’s book,” spell check won’t recognize the error because it’s spelled correctly.  As PR professionals, we cannot afford to let any grammatical errors creep in to our work. Publishing something with typos can hurt your credibility. If a journalist reads your mistake, he/she is likely to say, “What a bozo! There’s no way I’m using this,” and click “delete.” If your readers see it, they may say, “Why should I trust them if they can’t even spell?” Your client certainly won’t be happy.

Lately I’ve been noticing errors more often when I’m reading something or even when I’m watching the news. I’m surprised to find typos – even whole sentences misconstrued – almost every time I read the Staten Island Advance. I’ll also find spelling mistakes on ads in the nail salon. Please, don’t take a chance on losing credibility. Check your work.

For some of us, editing and re-editing can be daunting. Still, spell check is not the best tool to check for errors. The only surefire way to be error-free is to proofread your work. I find it better to print out a hard copy of my work and read it over, making changes with a red pencil. I’ll even hand it to my father or a friend and ask them to proofread it. Use a method that is right for you.

How do you proofread your work? Do you use spell check? What are some of your spelling nightmares?

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13 responses to “Why Relying On Spell Check Alone Isn’t Enough

  1. I couldn’t agree more! One of the most frustrating things for me is when my spell check randomly reverts to U.S. spelling (I’m from Australia). Major points off there. Another thing I have noticed is major spelling/grammatical errors in companies/businesses social media pages. It’s a more relaxed forum, for sure, but you’re still promoting your business! Spell correctly!

  2. You are right Cristina, that’s really a big problem for all the people who are used to writing articles on a computer rather than a piece of paper! Last week on my writing workshop class, one of my classmate was embarrassed of her typo (she typed “bread into”) when all the class in reviewing her writing through the projector. And in particular, the typo problem also annoy the Chinese. There are no several characters in Chinese words, usually one or two character stands for a word, like ”一” means “one”, or “儿子” means “son”. And in my university life, one of the most helpless things is that a few of the students will forget how to write a complicated Chinese word (like this one “囊” ). That’s really terrible when you are taking a final exam when you have to write on a piece of paper, rather than a laptop!

  3. Spelling mistakes in e-mails are one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s amazing how poorly people write and spell. My favorite is people the have signature on their e-mail that says “Please excuse any typos or misspellings from my iPhone.” I get that autocorrect does funky things but that does not excuse you from not checking over what you type. I actually don’t rely on spell check because it doesn’t catch a lot of errors, instead I do it the old fashioned way. I re-read my work a few times before hitting the send or save button.

    • Wow. I have never encountered an email with that kind of signature. I re-read my emails before sending them to anyone. I don’t think autocorrect is a good excuse for not checking your work.It doesn’t take much to read over an email. It’s hard to take people seriously once they make a spelling error. I mean, we all make them every once in a while. But it shouldn’t be a recurring event as it comes off as carelessness.

  4. Cristina, thanks for sharing this with us. It is good reminder for us, especially for PR professionals. In Preparatory writing workshop, the professor talked about the same problem that most students rely on spell check to proof their writing. But what spell check can help is very limited. What’s more, we should not count on spell check to make a good article when we are writing. We should focus on polishing our writings. According to the professor, most student misunderstand spell check with polish. Spell check can only make your writing right on spelling and gamma.But polish expects more. It requires you to your writing have a well-organized structure; it requires your writing to be logical and make sense, get to the point clearly—— So you are right. Spell check is not enough to bring out a good writing.

  5. Christina, I first want to say that I love this blog post. I think you hit the problem with spell check right on the nose. A lot of people are embarrassed to read their work out loud, but you would be surprised how many mistakes you can catch by doing that. There is no shame in going the extra yard. I am not the strongest writer, I always make sure to not use spell check as a clutch. So you are absolutely right. People should not only be using spell check, it is just not enough

  6. Hi Cristina,

    I really like the way you started your post, and I have to admit that the situation you mentioned happened to me all the time, since sometimes I was too tired to proofread my paper by myself after five-hour consistent typing. However, Obviously Spell Check didn’t help me enough to correct all my spelling errors. Not to mention other grammar errors that Spell Check is not able to figure out. In addtion, sometimes Spell Check on cell phone may change the correct word to a wrong one, because it follows some secific spelling rule. For example, once I write to my friend Inda via email, Spell Check “corrected” her name automatically from “Inda” to “India”! I believe next time it will be better for me to proofread by myself.

    Lu

    • Hi Lu! Thank you. Yes I’ve been there, too. After typing and typing, sometimes I just wouldn’t feel like proofreading my work. But it helps to bring fresh eyes into it. Autocorrect on my iPhone changes what I’m typing all the time…even when I’m spelling a word correctly! I still find it helpful when I’m typing fast and I make a mistake, even though most times it’s annoying.

  7. Cristina, I can’t agree with you more. I used spell check, but it didn’t find the wrong word. For example. I always spell the word “form” instead of “from”, spell check don’t recognize the error. I always proofread my paper on my computer, but some errors cannot be found. The suggestion that prints out a hard copy of my paper and read it over is very useful for me. In addition, I think we can use spell check first, and then proofread by ourselves.

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