Don’t Trust Your Spellchecker

Now that I have completed  my five-part blog on copyediting and proofreading, I’ve grouped the comments into topics and ended up with too much information for one blog, so . . . I’ll split it into several. I’ll add information that I didn’t include in my original blogs and that was kindly contributed by readers of my blog.

I collected the comments from the blog series and from the LinkedIn writing group called Crime Fiction managed by Theresa de Valence.

The topics from the comments are:

  • DON’T TRUST YOUR SPELL CHECKER
  • Having Others Proofread Your Work
  • The Eye Sees What it Wants to See
  • Read it Backward
  • Read it Out Loud
  • Read it Big
  • Adjectives and Adverbs
  • Split Infinitives
  • E-Readers
  • Computer versus Paper
  • Templates
  • Taking Breaks
  • Proofreading versus Copyediting

And yup, you guessed it. I’m going to cover the bolded topic today.

DON’T TRUST YOUR SPELL CHECKER

One theme among the comments was the quest for a list of the most common words authors have issues with. You can find that list a little farther down in the blog.

The following is a humorous excerpt (paraphrased a little) from one comment I thought summed up why we have difficulty seeing the typos, and I’ll call them typos, because most of us know how to spell and we know the correct word choice, but our fingers seem to have a will of their own and type what they want.

Never met a spelling you didn’t like, eh? Well they’re (their?) hard to (too?) spot, even for those of us who can spell some and know lots of words. They hide or just sit there defiantly, while your integrative, Gestalt brain fills in the gaps and skips over extra letters on its own, without telling you. That’s why proofing is so difficult, aside from the tediousness. And you’re (your?) usually doing it at the 11th hour, under time constraints, and all your (thy?) helpful friends have abandoned you to your dire fate.
What happens to me kicking out the stops on the mighty netbook, is letters get omitted due to detritus among the keys, and the spell checker thinks “ad” instead of “and” is good to go. Etc., or is it Ect.?

There was consensus that homophones and typos that create a correct word, but not the word you want,  are a problem in manuscripts. The following are the words I received in the comments to the blog. This list contains words that other authors have stated they have issues with. I’ve bolded the ones that I didn’t include in my original blog.

  • Ad/And
  • Aisle/Isle/I’ll
  • Barely/Barley
  • Calf’s/Calves
  • Ect./Etc.
  • Here/hear
  • Heard/herd
  • He’ll/Hell
  • It’s/Its
  • Flee/Flea
  • For/Fro
  • Form/From
  • Grown/Groan
  • Manor/Manner
  • No/Not/Now
  • Own/Now
  • Series/Serious
  • So/Sew (use needle and thread)

  • Sit/Sight
  • Then/Than
  • Then/The
  • There/Their
  • There’s/Theirs
  • Throne/Thrown
  • Thin/Thine/Thing
  • Thy/Thigh
  • To/Too
  • Were/We’re
  • Whelps/Welts
  • Where/Were
  • Who’s/Whose
  • Wringing, Ringing
  • Your/You’re

For those of you who dictate your copy, you may find the dictation software created homophones throughout your manuscript. So guess what? You get to be especially careful when checking for them.

To help find this type of error, one reader suggested: the smaller your device or viewing window is, the better it will be for proofreading. Also, since such narrow focus is both tense and tedious (contradictory, but true), take frequent breaks – maybe alternate with another task that has nothing to do with this or any other book.

Another reader said: this isn’t 100% on topic, but I use the “Add to Dictionary” and “Ignore” feature in MS Word to stop the software from picking up odd character and place names as mistakes in my manuscript. If I don’t do that, then those words get flagged so frequently that I start ignoring Spellcheck completely…and then miss things like “teh” and “tihng.”

Thanks to everyone who shared how they create an error-free (okay – so as close to error-free as possible) manuscript. It’s helpful to learn how others work.

If you have other words that are often a problem, don’t be shy. Please share them with me.

Thanks for reading . . .

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Trust Your Spellchecker

  1. My spellchecker allowed me to publish Lightning Attraction with ‘super’ instead of ‘supper’, twice one the same page! Luckily it was picked up within a couple of days and I was able to fix it. Five copies of the bad copy exist, I have one of them. They’ll be worth a fortune when I’m massively famous! (Wishful thinking makes me feel better!)

    Liked by 1 person

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