Writing Quote

"Don't write merely to be understood.
Write so that you can't possibly be misunderstood."
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spell Check: NOT a writer's best friend

Like many writers, I've been using the spell check button at every opportunity- in MS Word, in e-mail, blogging, even Facebook has a limited spell check feature now. And I've been loving it! But if you think spell check is your friend, think again. We all know what the advantages of spell check are. They are all the reasons we use it before hitting the print button, or sending our thoughts into the world wide web. But have you ever considered the disadvantages?

There are two general disadvantages that were obvious once I thought about it. The first is that a lot of words we misspell, are the correct spelling of a different word. How many times have you spelled 'of' when you meant to spell 'off,' or made some similar typo? Even if your spell checker includes a grammar function, this type of error doesn't always get caught by the computer. Which leads us to the second disadvantage: complacency. It's so convenient to click a few buttons, give our writing a last quick glance and call the end product our final draft. It promotes a laziness that ill-becomes any writer. If I want to improve my writing, I cannot fall into this trap.

For myself, spell check is bad because I am naturally a horrible speller. You'd think spell check would be great for me then, right? Wrong. If I rely on spell check, I will always be a horrible speller. Spell check doesn't teach me anything, it only enables me to continue being sub-par. Then what do I do when I don't have spell check available to me? My options are to go ahead and expose myself as a horrible speller or limit myself to using only the words I am confident I can spell correctly. Neither option is appealing to a writer.

Does this mean I'm planning to boycott spell check from now on? I may be mad, but I'm not stupid. My plan is to temper modern convenience with old fashion common sense. I run my spell check, which has a grammar checking feature as well. The words I've misspelled- and they're usually the same words over and over again- I'll practice writing correctly a few times before moving on to the next mistake. The grammatical errors sometimes come with an "explain" button in the options. Making the effort to learn why the grammar check program flagged a particular word or phrase can help prevent future mistakes. Of course, even computer programs aren't infallible, so having a reputable and current grammar book in your desk reference collection is wise- as long as you use it.

Improving my spelling and my understanding of grammar may not be a huge boost to my writing skills, but lacking these things can be a horrible hindrance to a writer. If nothing else, I can remove some obstacles from my path to good writing by putting forth just a little extra effort each time I hit the spell check button.

1 comment:

  1. I agree - spell check can definately be a hinderance to me as a writer. There are those times that it has befuddled what I was trying to get accross but then there are those rare moments that it seems to save me from looking unintelligent. Moderation with spell-checking is key if I want to stay a good speller. :) Great thoughts!