Why Spell Check Is Not a Writer’s Best Friend

Spell check 2.0

You’ve probably read the title of today’s post and thought, what she talking about now? Let’s face it, most of the time we’re more than likely to spell a word incorrectly. But not to worry, since we have spell check to point it out to us. Just check for the red squiggly line underneath here.

Yet, as a writer you don’t want to be so reliant on spell check. Although it is a handy tool, it’s a tool that tricks you into a false sense of security. And by the end of the day, spell check is not a writer’s best friend. Here’s why:

  1. It increases laziness.  When unsure of a word’s spelling, we tend to use a watered down, cheap imitation of the word we wanted, in its place.  None of us are spelling bee champs. Yet we should still strive to find and learn the correct spelling of word(s).
  2. Spell checker doesn’t catch everything. Yes spell checker helps you catch misspelled words. But it doesn’t catch words that sound similar yet are spelled differently. For example, you typed “There umbrella was red” when you meant to use ‘their.’ There is the correct spelling but is the wrong word choice. Since they’re, there, and their sound similar and share three common letters in its spelling, it’s easy to misspell them.
  3. Spell checker mistakenly says you’ve misspelled when you haven’t. It can be annoying seeing all those red squiggly underlines throughout. Especially if you’re a science fiction and/or fantasy writer. Because most fantasies give birth to new worlds, with their own languages, culture, etc. Worlds outside the reality we live in, so of course they have words that exist in its imagined reality. Then you have to go through them all and add them to your dictionary. I also suggest you keep a glossary of terms and words, so that you don’t misspell it either.
  4. Spell check doesn’t recognize words from other languages. According to Infoplease.com there is roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today (although I think the number might be higher). With English as the third most spoken language spoken. What does that mean? That words outside your first spoken language, for example baht, will be incorrect according to spell check. And for your information baht is the currency of Thailand.
  5. Spell check doesn’t catch incorrect words. Woohoo! You spelled a word right. But wait a minute, it’s still the wrong word for that particular sentence. Why? Because the meaning/connotation behind the word throws your sentence out of whack. It’s like the same problem mentioned in number two. But it delves deeper into wrong word usage. Writers paint with words. And the problem with spell check in this regard, makes the painting a blurry mess. Most readers won’t catch it and will probably understand what you meant. Yet our pride as writers, should never be okay with ‘well at least they got it.’ We must strive and go in search of the ‘right’ word to make the world in our novels come alive.
  6. Spell check is a limitation tool.  Yes, spell check catches misspelled words. Yes, it even provides the correct spelling. Despite its obvious advantages, its biggest offense is that it limits our writing. Funny isn’t it? The purpose of a tool is to aid us in accomplishing a task. So how is it that spell check is a limitation? If you refer to point one, spell check instills laziness. This time not in spelling but in the search of the right word. Writing isn’t just writing words to tell a story. Writing is painting with words. Words that evoke the senses, emotions, etc of the reader. The search for the right word(s) is the treasure writers seek. And spell check only gives us barely a half-hearted attempt of the chase. But Gustave Flaubert said it best when he said,“Whatever you want to say, there is only one word that will express it, one verb to make it move, one adjective to qualify it. You must seek that word, that verb, that adjective, and never be satisfied with approximations, never resort to tricks, even clever ones, or to verbal pirouettes to escape the difficulty.”

So, you have your reasons why spell check is not your friend. Well now how can you  wean yourself from spell check? And help round out  and enhance the depth of your writing? Simple.

  1. Read. And I mean read a lot. Reading improves spelling and exercises your mind. Plus, you have the chance to study how other writers used the ‘right’ word to make their story come alive.
  2. Get a thesaurus. A thesaurus provides you with many synonyms you can possibly use instead. But still you don’t want to become reliant on it either. Treat it as a map to help you on your treasure hunt. One that you can discard and or keep at will.
  3. Grab a dictionary. Unsure about a definition of a word? Unsure about a word’s connotation, emotional meaning? Or if it’s the right word to use? Then look it up in the dictionary. Decide yay or nay. And search for a new word.
  4. Trust yourself.Think of it this way. Misspelling a word does not mean you’re stupid. It means that you’re using the wrong word. Listen to your intuition. If the word feels wrong, not because it’s spelled wrong. But genuinely, deep in your gut and inexplicably wrong. Then it’s wrong. Once you acknowledge that, go in search of the right one. And when you do, always remember the quote from Jack Kerouac, “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Have any stories to tell about spell check mishaps? How do you feel about spell check?

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”― Mark Twain


PS I’m looking for a few more good bloggers to become blog hosts for my poetry chapbook Can You Catch My Flow? It’ll be soon available in print but you can find the ebook at Smashwords and Amazon. Don’t have an Amazon Kindle? Then download the free Amazon kindle app for your phone, tablet or pc! Just follow the link here.


The tour dates is from March 1-April 30, 2016 and if you’re interested, click the banner below to the sign up form. Looking forward to hearing from you! 😀

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    • Me too because sometimes I could’ve sworn I was thinking of a different word. But my fingers would type something else. In the end what I’m trying to convey is blown by the wind and I’m chasing after it to make it right.


  1. Reading is so important for spelling! There are so many people with wonderful vocabularies that just don’t know how to spell the words because they never see the words they say. I know my spelling abilities improved so much during the year I moved from kiddie chapter books to full blown novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, reading is important. Other times people spell the words the way they say it. Sometimes not realizing they might’ve misspelled it. Reading is an essential tool to learning new words and how they’re spelled.


  2. As a book editor, I hate spell check. It’s incorrect more often than it’s correct. It makes me cringe. So many words are written differently depending on how they are being used, but spell check doesn’t know that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. Exactly. It reminds me of the conversation between my husband and his friend. They were complaining about how the English language is crazy. Their number one problem was how there were certain words either spelled or sounded the same but are read in a sentence differently depending on how they’re used. It was why they never liked English writing class. They much prefer math because it’s simpler.


    • Yes. All that red. I can’t stand it. And though it takes about three seconds to add the incorrect word, according to spell check, to the dictionary, that I have to do that at all is a bit annoying. Either I stop mid-writing or wait until I’m done to do it. In the end I still lose a few good minutes worth of writing time.


  3. I don’t have spelling problems, but I do have typing problems. I think faster than I can type and the fingers just hit the wrong keys. Spellcheckers are not as good as they used to be, but they’re still useful. We just shouldn’t rely on them, however.
    You’re right about reading to increase our vocabulary and improve our spelling. I’ve just finished a book by Julian Barnes and I had to look up about 7 words, because he delights in obscure vocabulary. Even a good thesaurus isn’t as good as knowing exactly the right word. I enjoyed the Flaubert quotation. His language was very precise; he knew what he wanted to say and he said it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the same. I think faster than I type but maybe it’s because I learned to type on a typewriter in high school, I instinctively know when I pressed the wrong key or when I spelled a word wrong. I love Flaubert’s quote too. I love a good quote and I was searching for something to along with today’s post and struck gold when I found it. It’s one of the best quotes and writing advice about the written word and our purpose as writers I’ve read.


  4. I would get SO annoyed when I worked in an office and someone would say because spell check/grammar check was going off on a certain word, that meant it was wrong. They’d rely 100 percent on spell check and never believe it when I said you can’t do that. Sure, it’s a great tool, but it’s meant just to help you catch mistakes, not to serve as your grammar/spelling police!


    Liked by 1 person

    • I can definitely see how that is annoying. And you’re right it’s not a grammar/spelling police. I much prefer to print it out and use a red pen or use Grammarly to check for grammar issues.


    • Oh yes, yes. Seeing spell check creating all that red because of words from other languages is annoying. I’m just glad it doesn’t auto correct. Speaking of which, I have a bone to pick with cell phone companies for that damn auto correct.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I only write reviews, but I try to make them interesting. Don’t think I could write anything without a handy-dandy thesaurus, because sometimes the word I choose just doesn’t seem ‘enough’. BTW, many times spell checker actually gets it wrong. 🙂
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, there are times the word is not enough. Maybe it’s too simple or too much. Regardless if the words themselves have relatively the same meaning, they evoke different emotional levels. And yes spell checker gets it wrong. Which is why it’s best to rely on yourself and another pair of extra eyes.


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