Spelling checkers used for essays

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1. Most word-processors have spelling checkers these days. You should use the checker before printing out your documents. This should form part of your regular editing procedures.

2. Checking your work with a spell-checker will help to highlight and correct commonly mis-spelt words such as ‘accommodation’, ‘parallel’, ‘recommend’, and ‘silhouette’.

3. The checker will also highlight mis-keyed words such as ‘hte’ for ‘the’ or ‘nad’ for ‘and’. You may either choose the correct word from a list, or the processor may offer you the opportunity to reverse the mis-keyed letters. [The latest even perform this function automatically.]

4. It will not be able to recognise specialist terms and unusual proper nouns – names such as Schumacher, Derrida, or Nabokov. These will not be in the processor’s memory. You will have to check the correct spelling of these yourself, as you would do with any other unusual words.

5. Remember that a spell-checker will not alert you to a mistake if you write ‘They washed there own clothes’ instead of ‘They washed their own clothes’, because the word ‘there’ is spelt correctly even though it is being used ungrammatically in this sentence. The same would be true of ‘It is over hare’ instead of ‘It is over here,’ because ‘hare’ exists in its own right as a correctly spelt word.

6. Most spell-checkers will spot unwanted double words such as ‘going to to the fair’, and will offer you the opportunity to delete the second occurrence. But they will not notice anything wrong with a word broken by a space such as ‘to morrow’, because these two terms exist in their own right as separate words.

7. The checker will not alert you to any mistake if you key the word ‘practice’ instead of ‘practise’, because both words exist separately. The same would be true of ‘advise’ and ‘advice’. [Most grammar-checkers will alert you to these common problems.]

8. If you decide to add to the processor’s memory names which are frequently used in your own subject discipline (Freud, Jung, Adler or Marx, Engels, Bukharin) make sure that you enter them correctly spelt.

9. Beware of adding too many names which might be thrown up in the checking of your document. Some proper nouns may be the same as mis-spelt words. If you were to add ‘Fischer’ to the dictionary as a name, this would mean that the spell-checker would not alert you to a problem if you mis-keyed ‘fisher’ as ‘fischer’.

10. Beware of adding to your processor’s dictionary just because it is easy and seems a profitable thing to do. You might for instance add your own postcode of ‘SE9 6OY’ – but if you then mis-keyed the word ‘TOY’ as ‘6OY’ the spell-checker would not then be able to pick up your mistake. It would assume that you wished to regard ‘6OY’ as an acceptable ‘word’.

11. A spell check is usually performed after all your text has been generated and edited. However, there are good arguments for using the checker at earlier stages. Layout and spacing might be affected; the document will be in a reasonably good condition at any given stage; and it may eliminate the necessity for a search and-replace procedure at a later stage.

12. Finally, here is a cautionary (and amusing) ditty which might help you to remember some of these points:

‘My New Spell Checker’

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

[Sauce unknown]

© Roy Johnson 2003

Writing skills links

Red button Tutorials, guides, and books, on writing skills

Red button Writing skills – a bibliography

Red button Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

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