Spell-check your way to disaster

The reasons not to consolidate editing solely to a spell-check are obvious and stated many times over. Even Wikipedia agrees, so we are getting somewhere on that front. And the Boston Globe’s website recently published some typo anecdotes that spell-check would have failed to catch — and at least one that it probably caused.

But what amazes me is not our reliance on computer spell-checking, but how bad spell-check can actually be. It should operate as a first line of defense, not an ordeal that delivers an astonishing number of mistakes and dictionary gaps for every typo it flags for an editor. Granted, proper nouns can be a burden, but the suggestions often seem, at best, illogical. Moreover, if we’re trusting spell-check, clicking “ignore all” and, occasionally, “change,” at a flurry, even the logical suggestions can result in embarrassing typos that convey our lack of care when it’s really our lack of patience or time.

Here are just a few that I regularly have run into (using the spell-check software at my work, plus OpenOffice and Microsoft Word):

“Wrong”: Obama “Fix”: Baa

“Wrong”: Gonna “Fix”: Gonad

“Wrong”: Children’s “Fix”: Childcare’s

“Wrong”: women’s “Fix”: omen’s

“Wrong”: multi “Fix”: mulch

“Wrong”: Hamas “Fix”: Haas

“Wrong”: [New] Zealand “Fix”: Zeal and

“Wrong”: webinar  “Fix”: webbing

“Wrong”: a.m “Fix”: am

“Wrong”: ramping “Fix”: tamping 

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