Why do I need an editor when I have spell checker?
Well, that is a good question. I get it. Spell checker is free and basically does the same work as a proofreader right?
Well actually, no.
Spell checker essentially does what it says on the tin. It only really corrects your spelling. It is a great tool, that even as a proofreader I have used it to my advantage and from experience I have picked up on the places where it can't help you. There are still so many instances where your work could be incorrect, so it's important that you don't fully rely on it.
So, today I thought I would talk about some of the things spell checker misses, why you might need a proofreader after all and if not, what you should look out for in your writing after spell checking.
Let's start with the obvious...
Spell checker is a robot. Therefore, its not fully understanding what you're writing. It's looking for errors and sometimes something can be 'correct' but not right.
Syntax/ Word Choice
There may be times where you use the wrong word or the wrong word order.
'The dog on the sat mat'
Every single word in this sentence is spelt correctly, spell checker has not flagged it, but this sentence is incorrect.
Or perhaps you have used the wrong word...
'I went swimming in the see'
Again, every single word in this sentence is technically correct and spell checker has not flagged it. You may have spelt the word correctly, but the sentence is still incorrect.
This is one of the most common mistakes I see in people's writing. It's a lot easier to make this mistake than you may think, especially as there are so many words that are similar to others.
You may have typed the wrong word by accident, but it's spelt correctly therefore it won't be flagged up. There are times when spell checker doesn't pick up on homophones either. You never know, a mistake like this could lead to a very unfortunate misunderstanding...
In simple terms, you only capitalise a word if it's at the start of a sentence or if it's a proper noun. However, there are times when the same word needs to start with a capital letter and times when it doesn't. Spell checker will not pick up on this, especially as sometimes its up to interpretation whether a noun is proper or not.
The Blue Line
At times, spell checker will give you suggestions. It's important to remember that these are ONLY suggestions.
When listening to these 'blue lines', remember to be thorough. For example if an Oxford Comma is suggested and you decided to use it, then you must use them consistently throughout the rest of your work.
Sometimes that blue little line can cause a lot more trouble than it's worth. A key element to a perfect piece of writing is consistency.
This can be easily changed, however this is another thing I see commonly in people's writing. Therefore, it's important to be aware of it. American English is set as a default on Microsoft spell checker, it needs to be changed to English manually.
American English slightly differs to English and if set to American English, your spell checker will correct your writing (even if it's correct) to American. It may not seem like a big deal, but there are some English words that don't even exist in American English and there are also a lot of words out there that are spelt differently. So keep this in mind when using spell checker.
Tense and Person
This is another common mistake I see, especially when editing fiction. I often see writers switching between tenses, which can lead to those tenses being mixed up. This can become extremely confusing for the reader.
Spell checker cannot pick up on this error.
Similarly, a change in person is common to. For example, changing from first person to third person.
I was at home
She was at home
Again, spell checker has no way to pick up on this and as a writer it can be tricky to pick up on yourself as you know what you mean therefore you might not notice it.
These are only some of the things that spellchecker can't 'check'. There are so many other instances where your work can be wrong and it won't be picked up on spell checker. That's why it is so important to keep these in mind while editing your own work or things that a proofreader could help you with.