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Spell checkers

You folks could probably answer this question better than anyone else I can think of. Is there any evidence that computer spell checkers help improve peoples’ unaided spelling skills? I ask because I believe it has helped mine. The immediate feedback offered as I type on a word processor seems to break any tendency I might have to start spelling certain words wrong all of the time.

No doubt there are educators, psychologists, and others who would argue that a spell checker makes us lazy and without the spell checker on the system we would soon regress to our primitive spelling roots. Maybe they’re right and my improved spelling is just a figment of my imagination, or perhaps a natural tendency that would have happened anyway after many years of writing.

  • September 28, 2005
  • Posted by steve
  • Filed in Misc

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I have spoken with many writing professors about spell-check being the root of all evil. The fact is that most people that use a computer with a spell check (esp. MS Word) are completely satisfied when they have no words that are misspelled after they finish writing. Because of this false sense of security at having no misspelled words, they assume don't bother to proof read and end up making more mistakes like:

1. They write sentences that are not clear and don't know it because they didn't bother to read them.

2. Spell check automatically fixes their misspelled words, but does so incorrectly. This results in the wrong word being in the writing but nothing being misspelled. This can be worse than a spelling error.

Both of these problems (#1 in particular) have made the art of diction all but vanish in contemporary, non-professional writing.

- Adam

adam September 29, 2005, 11:00am

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My complaint is .. spell checkers can't spell. They spell american

Susanna September 29, 2005, 1:40pm

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Spell-checkers are the devil. They've only helped me in pointing out some words I thought were normal were actually British spelling. Every time I see that squiggly line under "colour," I feel a sense of patriotism.

In grade twelve, a classmate wrote a term paper, and when he was finished, he used the spell-checker and checked "correct all." I'm sure his paper was fraught with errors, particularly if he quoted and Polish scholars. Best part was that it was an essay about humour.

jonghyundunbar September 29, 2005, 8:14pm

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I use to be an awful speller, so I started using the computer spell checker for everything I typed. If I was going to post something on a forum, or type a paper, or even if I wrote a long IM to someone, I would use the spell checker. As a result, I now find myself spelling words better. When I start to misspell something I automatically erase it and retype the correct word. So I think, yes spell checker do help improve your spelling.

Dominic September 30, 2005, 4:06pm

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good October 1, 2005, 9:44am

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Wow, Susanna, you didn't realise you can change the setting from U.S. English to U.K. English?

Andrew October 1, 2005, 5:44pm

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The problem with the so-called "British" spellings on the spell-checker is that they are written by Americans who don't know what they're talking about.

Hence the word "humorous" would be changed by Microsoft to "humourous", on the assumption that the British spelling would have an extra U. This is, of course, wrong. And there are plenty of other examples, too.

It would be nice to have spell-checkers that could actually spell.

Bull Gates October 12, 2005, 2:40am

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Another caveat of spell checkers is that they don't seem to catch improper usage of they're/their/there, you're and your, etc.

alan October 12, 2005, 7:12pm

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Ok, I'm sure you've all seen this, but I just couldn't resist:

Owed to a Spell Chequer

I halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plane lee marques four my revue
Miss steaks aye ken knot sea

Eye ran this poem threw it
Your sure reel glad two no
It's vary polished in it's weigh
My chequer tolled me sew

A chequer is a bless sing
It freeze yew lodes of thyme
It helps me awl stiles two reed
And aides mi when aye rime

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud
And wee mussed dew the best wee can
Sew flaws are knot aloud

And now bee cause my spelling
is checked with such grate flare
Their are know faults with in my cite
Of nun eye am a wear

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed to be a joule
The chequer poured o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule

That's why aye brake in two averse
My righting wants too pleas
Sow now ewe sea wye aye dew prays
Such soft wear for pea seas

porsche October 20, 2005, 8:48pm

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Here's something stupid my spell-checker just told me.

The sentence is, "Which one do you like the best?" The word "do" has that squiggly red line. The spell-checker recommended i change it to "does." Stupid, stupid spell checker.

jon November 16, 2005, 4:12pm

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They're getting better though

Lynn October 31, 2006, 1:23am

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I hate to be picky, but almost every post on this page (except for maybe three of them?) has an error in grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, etc. Some of them would have been picked up by a spell checker, others would not. Ok, I do like to be picky.

porsche October 31, 2006, 5:05am

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Bull Gates, if you find problems with certain words in the British dictionary from Microsoft, you can tell your software to add the correct spelling. Does anyone know how one can remove an unwanted spelling?

David Fickett-Wilbar November 1, 2006, 6:36am

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David F-W, while you cannot directly edit the main dictionary, you can add custom dictionaries, and, in particular, you can add a custom "exclusion dictionary". This is a list of words that you want to force the spell checker to show as misspelled. Just type "exclusion dictionary" into MSWord's help menu for instructions.

porsche November 1, 2006, 7:10am

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Yes     No