The Write Stuff

In lighter vain

2004-07-14 13:42

Yes, of course there's a spelling error in the title! And it illustrates perfectly the point of today's article: don't rely on the spellcheck programme on your computer.

Most word-processing packages have a facility that can help us check our spelling. There are two main things to watch out for, however, when using this facility. Firstly, make sure your setting is on United Kingdom/British English and not U.S. English, or you may (correctly) type "colour", for example, and yet receive a signal from your computer that it is a misspelling. Secondly, problems may arise in the case of homophones (words that sound alike but are spelt differently, like "there" and "their"); if you type the wrong one, your computer is unlikely to sound the necessary alarm bells, because most spelling checkers are not context-sensitive - all they do is "see" whether they "recognise" particular items and if they do, they pass them as correct.

In this connection, someone sent this little poem to me, which many readers may not have seen:

Ode to the Spelling Checker

It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

The moral of the story (again): use a dictionary; don't rely on your computer to think for you.

  • Nicky Grieshaber, formerly a university lecturer, is now a translator, text editor, study skills trainer and general entrepreneur.

    Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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