Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spell checkers

I don't use a spellchecker. I've been drilled in spelling and grammar, and it's not a bad thing. I was taught three foreign languages (one of them I'm typing in right now), and you can't properly learn a language if you don't know the basics. Spelling is so fundamental, in my mind, that (typing errosr aside) you shouldn't need a spellchecker. Pedantic? Me?? OK, use a spellchecker if you're not certain. And to weed out those typos. But for crying out loud, please use a passive one. I'm allergic to active spellcheckers, that change words for you, without you having to allow it or not. I came across this horrendous example in an article on the STV website - STV is the Scottish commercial television channel - about Scots cyclists who were in the Joplin tornado. Describing the scene, the article quotes:

The storm sirens whaled out. We had to sprint and get ourselves to the van and head to the storm shelter. It was terrifying; the sirens filled me with fear.

Well, I should not joke about such a devastating event as the Joplin tornado, where over 100 people died. But I am pouring scorn over the text editor on STV.tv, who did not spot that particular banana-skin. He will end up wailing about whales until the end of his days...


Jenny said...

I used to be able to spell, but after i got to a certain age, i seemed to loose the ability. Even if i know it in my head, that will not be what i write down. Oh, and just to be a bit of a pedant here, we were taught it was bad form to start a sentence with, 'and' or 'but', although it seems to be done more and more often nowadays. :)
Jenny <><

Lori said...

Jenny, I was taught the same. But it is acceptable now to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. ;) However, it is still considered informal, so in a business setting, although it is not wrong, it might be better to limit the number of times you use a corresponding conjunction like "and" or "but" at the beginning of a sentence. If you have an editor or a boss who is particular about such things, you should go by his/her rules. Consistency is the main thing.

Lori said...

Whoops! I said "corresponding" conjunction the second time. I have no idea why. That should have read "coordinating" conjunction.

Guido! That was a "whale" of a spellchecker mistake! I don't like the active ones either. I don't, on purpose, use spellchecker, but usually if one is automatically in use in whatever program I'm using I will go ahead and leave it on. I will ignore it, but it is good for catching the occasional typing error. I am generally in the habit of proofing myself several times, and I'd rather rely on that for catching mistakes like the wail/whale one. But as I get older I, too, find my spelling is not as good as it used to be on paper, so it has helped me out at times. One should never rely on spellchecker alone, though.

Beth said...

I completely agree. I use a passive spellcheck. I will never use an autocorrect. As does Lori, I proofread myself several times. I still occasionally miss a homonym, but that is due to oversight on my part.

Case in point, as to how and why autocorrect is dangerous. I recently had an encounter online in which someone mentioned "acedamia." In my response, I put it in quotes. The person responded in kind, and mentioned my university as apparently not being a good example of "acedamia." A friend commented, "Says the guy who doesn't know how to spell it." The person responded that they simply spelled it the way I did. One more response: I said that I put it in quotes because he spelled it that way in his original comment, and that I know quite well how to spell academia.

His response? Something about how that is what autocorrect did.

Beware autocorrect. Here there be dragons. If you know how to spell, don't let an application do it for you.

Anonymous said...

Giving radioactive gaze.
Let us just say I'm ok with spelling and grammar, but could use some refresher courses. I like my handy, paper, by the computer, dictionary, though. ~Mary