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.
While it’s true that spell checkers work well for those of us with rudimentary spelling skills, there are some instances where it might be more of a hindrance than a help. After all, your computer’s vocabulary isn’t always as diverse as you need it to be.
The Dangers of Spell Check Dependency
When reviewing your work, remember that spell checkers do not always catch all errors. Consider this sentence:
“The boy was very hungry, so she told his mother that he wanted to eat.”
Any spell checker will accept this sentence even though we have a clear grammatical error: the use of "she" rather than "he."
Yes, spell checkers help us avoid embarrassing spelling mistakes. But before you submit your next important piece, bear (not bare!) in mind that an additional human proofread can hugely improve and correct your writing.
The second key rule to note is that spell checkers cannot stand alone. Sometimes they need checks themselves! That's because most spell checkers can't detect context most of the time. For example, have you ever had a spell checker tell you to use "there" when you meant "their"? If you blindly followed whatever it suggested, you'd be making the wrong move. Though they're powerful tools, spell checkers aren't perfect.
Practice Makes Perfect
No matter how advanced your spell checker is, it can't replace the human brain. Especially not a brain like yours, which has years of writing and spelling practice and can understand context where appropriate. By encouraging positive habits such as proofreading and revision, we can overcome our reliance on spell checkers. Remember, your spell checker is only watching for blatant mistakes. It can't correct your grammar, syntax, or usage. That's your job, writer!
So by all means, use your spell checker. Just don't rely on it.
About the Author: Alastair supplied this article on behalf of Communicaid, a company which provides business writing courses amongst other communications skills training programmes.