Paving My Author's Road

Why Spell Check Is Not a Writer’s Best Friend

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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?

 

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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