Don’t forget to use your brain, too
Spel chekers, hoo neeeds em?
— Alan James Bean, American astronaut
I’m sure you caught this news item last month. This version is from The Week:
I love spell check. It can save even the most talented writers and editors from embarrassing situations. But, obviously, spell check can cause embarrassment, too.
“If your … software-based spell-checker has not already come back to haunt you because you trusted it too well, sooner or later, it will,” writes Chris Smith, the brilliant copywriting guru at Entergy Corp. And it will not be in a sentence as obvious as this:
“My Outlook spell-checker just ran that last sentence and thought it was just fine and asked if I wanted it to check the rest of the message. I decided to trust my brain instead.”
Recheck spell check
The solution, of course, is to trust your brain, or to recheck spell check. Here’s how:
- Run spell check on your copy. Let the software do its job. But consider your spell checker your editing assistant, not the vice president of proofreading for your copy.
- Search for frequently misused words. Check “to” and “too,” “lose” and “loose.” If your CEO’s name is Jon Ratliff, search for “John” and “Ratcliff.”
- Use your brain. Or someone else’s. “Do final proofing yourself,” Smith counsels, “or ask one of your corporate communications friends to apply a fresh eye.”
After agonizing over the sad state of proofreading at Pennsylvania high school yearbook publishers, I was happy to read this story in The Week:
That’s good news. And not a spell checker in sight.
Sources: “Bad week for …,” The Week, June 13, 2008
Chris Smith, “Spel tcheckers,” Three Things, Entergy Corp., May 25, 2006
“It wasn’t all bad,” The Week, April 11, 2008