Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Spell Check Basket

Here's how to avoid spelling and grammar mistakes.

Creating documents is a snap with Microsoft Word and similar programs – just be careful when using the spell checker and find-replace features.

Otherwise, you might not fined errors of usage witch aren’t misspelled. And if you do a global replacement of “her” with “him,” you might end up with anothim instead of another and Him’s to you instead of Here’s to you.

“Almost all word processing programs come equipped with a tool for checking both spelling and grammar,” according to the writing/editing site Servicescape. “Writers should be wary of the dangers of relying too heavily on these tools.”

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Five Common Scenarios
Here’s a cardinal rule to remember: your spell-checker can only flag words that are misspelled, not misused. It will find few if any errors in the following: “Spell check will not fined words witch are miss used butt spelled rite!”

Here are some of the common pitfalls of relying too much on your machine, according to Servicescape:

  • Spell check cannot help you with some proper names, such as “Heston” or “Jolie.”
  • Spell check will not detect the improper use of homonyms, such as “their” and “there.”
  • Spell check may flag words as errors which are indeed correct.
  • Spell check does not always offer useful spelling suggestions for severely misspelled words.
  • Some commonly misused words won’t be caught: advise/advice; loose/lose; passed/past; dessert/desert; weather/whether; then/than; site/sight/cite.

Ode to the Spell Checker
Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea.
It plainly marks four my revue miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a quay and type a word and weight for it to say
Weather eye yam 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 it,
I am shore your pleased to no.
Its letter perfect awl the way.
My checker told me sew.
Author: Jerrold H. Zar

A Sad Sua Sponte Story
“Along these same lines, there is an amusing story that has circulated in the legal community regarding the dangers of spell check. An attorney inadvertently replaced the words sua sponte with the words sea sponge throughout his brief.”

This led to the following embarrassing sentences: “An appropriate instruction limiting the judge’s criminal liability in such a prosecution must be given sea sponge explaining that certain acts or omissions by themselves are not sufficient to support a conviction.” And “It is well settled that a trial court must instruct sea sponge on any defense, including a mistake of fact defense.”

What about you? Have you experienced a spell check or grammar debacle?

Source: Servicescape

Membership in Alta Pro Lawyers RPG brings big benefits. You’ll get access to the Pro Practice Playbook, Reminger ProLink, Ask the Risk Pro and more. Here’s how to join.

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