I’m revisiting that old chestnut: the howling limitations of spell check.
In the course of my work I complement my beady eye with two ancillary proofreading tools: pre-installed spell check and Intelligent Editing’s excellent editorial package PerfectIt. They enable me to increase my productivity, which is good for me and good for my clients. However, they should not be used in place of a proofreader.
Spell check fails to:
Correct simple typos:
. Apple clearly thought it could improve upon in.
. Churchill favoured a boiler suit with amble pockets and escape hatches.
. I’m not afraid of aging.
. I thought it best to give him a wide birth.
Spot a missing letter:
. Give one of our consultant a call.
Spot a missing word:
. It about being flexible.
Spot when a plural is required:
. I believe it’s time to rein thing in.
Spot when two words should be one:
. He was scare mongering.
Put the full stop in the correct place in direct speech:
. He said, “That’s it! I’m leaving”.
Put the full stop in the correct place:
. No fly posting offenders will be prosecuted.
Use upper and lowercase correctly:
. Julio Cesar called it a “Supermarket ball”.
Spot troublesome compounds:
. We are already to leave.
Checkers don’t know when to hyphenate a phrase that is used to qualify another noun:
. … in a business focused environment.
Checkers don’t know that adverbs used in compound words in front of a noun should be hyphenated:
. …much needed haircut.
Checkers have a rudimentary grasp of grammar:
. The duck and me went for a walk.
. The pudding needed less apples and fewer sugar.
Spell check is often foxed by UK vs US spelling variants:
. On the whole, US spelling shortens and simplifies: color, harbor, honor.
. However, there are exceptions: US fulfill, instill : UK fulfil, instil.
Checkers don’t reliably correct numbers written in letters and numerals:
. You should use letters when writing 1 to 9, and numerals from ten onwards.
Proofreaders and copy-editors need a decent grasp of general knowledge, which checkers don’t have:
. “…elephants in The Gambia”. This West African country doesn’t have elephants. The author meant to say Uganda.
. “…the Magna Carta”. Magna Carta does not take the definite article.
. “European High Court of Justice”. It is the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
So I thought I’d test my grammar/spell checkers:
. i thort i saw a pussy cat their on the stare
. I thought I saw a pussy cat they’re on the state.
And finally… “proofreader”
Spell check says this form is incorrect. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders, the industry body that upholds standards in the publishing industry, disagrees!