Spellcheck: Watch your P’s and Q’s.

January 20, 2009 at 8:10 am (General Mayhem)

The Gripe
More and more I see spelling errors in major news articles. Some are glaringly bad. One writer for AP Entertainment Weekly posted a article recently that would cause a English teacher to drop a big red “F” on it. Five words misspelled. Words that a 6th grade student should have caught.
And the culprit of this ? Spellcheck. Some reporters, in the rush to get a article out will hit auto correct in their writing program and not bother to check the article again before hitting the send button.
So Spellcheck runs, finds misspellings and corrects the word and moves on.

The Problem
So why all the misspelled words ? The problem lies in the “learn” feature inside of Spellcheck features. Through years of use, we tend to hit the learn button when up against unique words or names of people that you want Spellcheck to remember.

The Example
The AP writer published this sentence: Attorneys were scheduled to update Feess on the settlement Friday morning. Clearly Feess should be Fees. Somewhere down the line his Spellcheck was taught the word Feess and let it pass as correct.

The Fix
Very few Spellcheck programs allow you to dump all the taught words in its dictionary. If you have a spellcheck program that has that feature, use it. The other way is to erase your writing program on your hard drive and its preferences and install a fresh replacement. Make sure everything you wrote using the program is in a separate file outside the applications folder.

The Maintenance
Use the learn feature in spellcheck sparingly. Be aware of taught words that closely resemble common conservational words and pass on the learn button. And always proof read your writings with the sole purpose of checking the spelling after you run Spellcheck.


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