Don’t Check Out After Using Your Spellchecker!

 January 25, 2012

I have been ruminating all week on the previous post about using spelling and grammar checkers.  This is such an important part of what we do as Press Release writers yet is frequently the most overlooked part of our job.  It is so much easier to press a button and ‘fire n forget’ about the release be the button ‘spell’ or ‘send’.  The downside is that easily catchable mistakes stand out in press releases and as well as detracting from you message, also reflect badly on you as a writer.

Spellcheckers are useful in catching the most obvious and egregious errors but are not infallible. Here are the 10 most common ways a spellchecker will let you down and why you should take an extra ten minutes to proof read all of your press releases and material. The small amount of time you invest now could save a lot of needless bother later.

  • Homonyms – This odd sounding phrase just means words that sound the same but have different meanings. Spellcheckers don’t know whether you mean ‘pear’, ‘pair’ or ‘pare’; or ‘there’, ‘their’ or ‘they’re’ – all are equally valid in the soulless eyes of the spellchecker.
  • Incorrectly divided compound words – a grammar checker will have better luck than a spellchecker on whether you meant to say ‘courtyard’ instead of ‘court yard’ or ‘yesterday’ instead of ‘yester day’.
  • Incorrect pronouns – in the delightfully homogenous spellchecker world there are no masculine or feminine words so they won’t pick up on ‘his’, ‘hers’, ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘it’!
  • Usage errors – the most common faults are overlooked and you have to see for yourself if you want to say ‘its’ or ‘it’s’.
  • Missing words – Only you know what you intended to say in a sentence and as long as it’s spelled correctly then you won’t get any clues from your friendly automated dictionary.
  • Wrong words – gobbledygook such as ‘My supervisory experience sensitized me to the marital difficulties that married employees can encounter when pressed to work overtime” will look OK to a spellchecker but rarely to a reader.
  • Incorrect dates – be especially careful here as dd/mm/yyyy or mm/dd/yyyy or any variation of will not be picked up either.
  • Misspelled proper names – Given the propensity of personalization of names these days, be extra careful when including people and titles in releases. Chris, Christopher, Kris, Kriss, Criss, Cris and Kristo are all one and the same to a spellchecker despite being up to seven different people.
  • Incorrect verb tenses – If you have inadvertently confused past, present and future tenses then only you will be able to detect this error, or have detected this error.
  • Repetition – If you happen to type the same word twice in a row then a spellchecker will catch this, even correctly used such as ‘there, there’ or ‘the the’ but they won’t catch other kinds of repetition such as using the same phrase or sentence twice in a row – or saying exactly the same thing twice, in different words or phrases.

We are not against spellcheckers in any way; they are essential to any writer but should purely be used as a first line of defense rather than a 100% fault-proof firewall. The best judge of accuracy is always the writer.

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