Read below for the most common pitfalls when doing a spelling check on your document. But first, here’s a little poem I found on the Internet:
Eye halve a spelling chequer
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 it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
Clearly it’s a nonsense poem. But if you type this into a Word document, there won’t be any red squiggly lines to indicate spelling mistakes, because all these words exist in the dictionary.
So, do a computer spelling check on your written documents, but be wary of relying on it too much. Spelling checkers are not perfect.
That said, how can you make spell checkers more useful?
Tip # 1: Check you’re using the right dictionary
The most common complaint I hear about spell checkers are that they use American spelling. If you don’t want a red squiggly underline every time you write ‘organise'(British) instead of ‘organize'(American), then check you have the right dictionary setting.
This is easy in Word 2007 – go to the ‘Review’ tab on the menu bar, then click on ‘Set language’. Click on the dictionary type you want (United Kingdom or United States) and click on the ‘Default’ button at the bottom. Then click ‘OK’.
In previous versions of Word, click on ‘Tools’ on the menu bar, and select ‘Options’ from the drop down menu. Go to the ‘Spelling and Grammar’ tab and set the default dictionary to United Kingdom.
Tip # 2: Use spelling and grammar checker as a final on-screen check
I recommend double checking your document when you’ve finished, as it is devlishly easy to miss errors on screen, even when they’re underlined in red.
For Word, click on the ABC icon on the toolbar (on the Review menu if you’re using Word 2007). Word will systematically go through your document highlighting errors and offering alternatives. A word of warning though – don’t just blindly accept Word’s suggestions. It’s handy software but it isn’t very bright – remember the poem? If you’re not sure, check the word in the online dictionary to make sure it is correct.
Click on this link for tips on using Grammar checker.
Tip # 3: Print out and read your document
I can guarantee you will find at least one error you missed on screen. If you want to be really safe (if it’s a cover letter for a job application, for example) then get someone else to check your document after you. They will also find more errors, I promise!
“Is this really necessary?” I hear you ask. Yes. It’s something to do with the way our brains work – humans find it extraordinarily difficult to see their own typed mistakes. But they are very good at spotting someone else’s errors! If you don’t want your reader to be the one who catches you out, then get a ‘fresh eye’to check your work before you send it.