Don’t trust spellcheck, a junior high-aged editor

So you’ve got your story typed in manuscript form and are about to send it out. You decide to do one more spell check before printing the final copy. Good idea, right?

Wrong.

If you don’t feel confident that your manuscript is as perfect as can be, you should print it and make one more read of it. Don’t leave your manuscript’s quality up to the computer spell check.

Instead, learn to distrust the spell check.

Spell checks certainly are improving, and the dynamic spell check on current word processing programs are excellent tools. A spell check, however, should not be the sole method you use to edit your manuscript.

Here are some common problems with spell check:
• Homonyms – These are words that sound the same but are spelled differently, such as there, their and they’re. The different spellings have different meanings, and spell checks often can’t tell the difference.
• Machine gun checking – Because spell checks have limited dictionaries, they tend to flag words that are spelled correctly. Writers often fire rapidly through these words. The result is that some misspelled words are missed.
• Misspelled words can pass – If you misspell a word in such a way that it becomes two correctly spelled words, such as “miss steaks” when you meant “mistakes”, or simply mistype one letter so that it becomes a new word, such as “advise” when you meant “advice”, the spell check won’t catch it.

This is not to say you shouldn’t use your spell check. It is like having a second pair of eyes on your story. But the brain behind those eyes isn’t particularly smart. You wouldn’t be satisfied with letting a junior high student be the only one to edit your manuscript – so why would you put all of your faith in a spell check?