Friday, 13 May 2011

Spelling chequers

Yes, of course there is a spelling error in the title. And it illustrates perfectly the point of today’s article: Don’t rely on the spellchecker on your computer!

Most word-processing packages have a facility that can help us check our spelling. There are at least two things to watch out for, however, when using this facility:

1. Unless you’re in the USA or writing for a USA publication, make sure your setting is on UK/British English and not USA English. If you do not, you may, for example, correctly type colour or centre and yet receive a signal from your computer that the words have been misspelt. Conversely, you may type color or center and have your spellchecker approve the spelling, while the words would be incorrectly spelt in UK-based English writing.

2. Problems may arise in the case of homophones (words that sound alike but are spelt differently, like there and their) – if you type the wrong one, your computer may not sound the necessary alarm bells, because most spellcheckers are not sufficiently context-sensitive to make the necessary distinctions in cases like these – all they do is “see” whether they “recognise” particular items, and if they do, they pass them as correct.

In this connection, someone sent me this little poem, which some of you may not have seen:

Ode to the spelling checker

Eye have a spelling chequer
It came with my pea see
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.

The moral of the story: use a dictionary; don’t rely on your computer to do your thinking for you! –ws

2 comments:

Kerry said...

You may appreciate an error in my masters thesis that my supervisor pointed out to me (luckily before my final handin!). My autocorrect function had changes the word 'tests' to 'testes' :)

Nicky said...

That's funny! Just shows how careful one has to be with these programs! Lucky you had a vigilant supervisor! (Although I guess the word itself would generally pretty much draw attention to itself anyway!)