Survivial Skills for Freelancers

Spellcheck schmellcheck: why there’s no substitute for proofreading

Each time you rely on spellcheck you risk mistakes and errors in your writing. Here are some of the reasons why spellcheck is no substitute for professional proofreading.

How many times have you sent an email or distributed a document, having run it through spellcheck, only to find it contains embarrassing mistakes?

Spellcheck can be a wonderful thing. It can tell you when you’ve spelled a tricky word incorrectly – that’s one C, two Rs – but it can’t tell you when you’ve used the wrong word, or the wrong spelling of the right word.

The English language is full of homophones – words that sound the same, but have different spellings and different meanings, like the examples below:

  • your, you’re
  • to, too, two
  • there, they’re, their
  • sight, site
  • board, bored

Spellcheck doesn’t know if you’ve repeated a word word, or left one out, neither does it know which word you meant to use – it only knows whether the words you’ve used are spelled right.

None of the words below would be picked up by your spellchecker, but just one letter creates a whole new meaning:

  • manager, manger
  • concerns, concerts
  • public, pubic
  • committee, committed
  • assess, asses
  • reduce, seduce
  • deaf, dead
  • brought, bought
  • through, though
  • quite, quit
  • returning, retuning
  • excited, exited
  • attitude, altitude
  • realise, realist
  • whole, hole

So, don’t sack your spellchecker, but don’t rely on it to do your spelling for you – it’s never a substitute for proofreading.

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