Debated across the globe since the birth of the word processor, the question “To check, or not to check?” has plagued literacy skill advocates for decades, or at least since computer spell checkers first became widely available in the late 1970’s.
Hindered by arguments that spelling instruction is, or should be unnecessary, while it’s true that spell check works well for those of us with reasonable spelling skill (simple human error and the humble typo have much to be thankful for), just having rudimentary spelling skills is not always enough to sufficiently use a spell checker. After all, your computer’s vocabulary isn’t always as diverse as you need it to be.
The Dangers of Spell Check Dependency
RuleProposal No.1 when deciding to quickly proof your work, is remembering that spell checkers do not always catch all errors.
Consider the sentence;
“The boy was very hungry so she told his mother that he wanted to eat,”
Spell check will accept this even though the wrong word has been used and a grammatical mistake has been made; the use of ‘she’ rather than ‘he’.
The opposing argument, that spell checking is an important tool for avoiding embarrassing spelling mistakes is of course also valid, but before you jump straight into sending your next important piece of work, it’s wise to bear (not bare!) in mind that an additional human proof can hugely improve and correct your writing.
The second key rule to note when implementing your handy, red-and-green-line-wielding spell checker, is that spell checkers cannot simply stand alone. As a point generally agreed upon by most spelling enthusiasts, if you do a lot of professional writing, to clients and business partners for example, it’s important that you supplement and double-check your spell checker with your own knowledge of basic spelling.
Practice Makes Perfect When Progressing Your Professional Skills
The term ‘literacy’ refers to the ability to successfully read for knowledge, write coherently, and think critically about the written word.
Because of this, no matter how advanced your word processing programme or spell checker, it is unlikely that it can replace the innovative nature and abilities of a human brain – a brain which will already have years of writing and spelling practice, and is able to draw upon circumstantial experience to adapt written work to suit certain situations.
Regarding spelling, this is a skill most people are able to gradually practice and improve themselves, however in order to write coherently and get the message of a written piece across correctly, many people still benefit from additional business writing training.
By encouraging positive habits such as reading (then re-reading, and re-reading again) written work before presenting it to others, simple improvements (such as deciding if you really meant ‘affect’ or if ‘effect’ would have been more effective) can add up into a vast overall improvement across your writing, benefiting all areas of literary life; not purely professional and business communication.
So remember: Your spell checker won’t necessarily tell you which word is best to use, as it’s only watching for blatant mistakes rather than aiming to correct your grammar and syntax.
Only practice, aided by good training and advice can aid and improve your business writing skill - though this doesn’t mean you have to reject your spell checker entirely! Some acknowledgement of a computer’s spelling ability and opinion can always add to your corrective process as long as you’re not overly reliant - after all, this article itself was written with the assistance of a spell checker’s second opinion!
About the Author: Alastair supplied this article on behalf of Communicaid, a company which provides business writing courses amongst other communications skills training programmes.