“With automatic spell checkers running unleashed over what we compose, our era is that of correctly spelled typos.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

So I’ve been noticing some of the more common writing errors becoming, well, more common, even in professional writing. It seems there is a heavier reliance on spell check than ever before. Sure, it’s handy to have a little backup plan for those times when you fat-finger too many S’s into “success”, but reliance on spell check for important material is dangerous. Sentence structure can sometimes die at the hands of spell check. The problem is, spell check doesn’t argue semantics with you. It doesn’t take the context of what you are trying to say into consideration. For example, take the following two sentences:

It depends on the weather whether we can bring home our wether.

It depends on the wether whether we can bring home are weather.

Both MS Word and WordPress gave me guff on the word wether, even though it actually is a word. Spell check did not catch “are” instead of “our” in the second sentence either. Granted, not everyone needs to determine when it would be best to bring home a castrated goat. Still, sentence structure is important in getting your point across. The first sentence makes sense to a reader, the second does not–even if you don’t know what a wether is!

These, by the way, are wethers.

Which brings me to another point. It seems like a lot of arguments could be avoided if people used punctuation and font to give their writing a tone or “voice”. Italics help so much with this!

“You’re being silly!” in answer to “When am I silly?”

You’re being silly! in answer to “Who’s being silly?”

“You’re being silly.” in answer to “What am I being?”

All three sentences say the same thing, but apply italics and punctuation and you have a much clearer meaning. You can hear the speaker in the first sentence stress the word “being” as you read it. Because of the use of the exclamation point, you can tell they’re a little worked up, possibly laughing. If you put a period on the end of the third sentence, it sounds more like the speaker is exasperated. I suppose there is such a thing as overuse of italics and such, but judicious use really helps clarify meaning and immerse readers in the story.

The bottom line is: there’s only so much spell check and dictation software can do. Having a competent proofreader gives you some assurance that your meaning doesn’t get “lost in translation”.

Have a grate weakened! 😉

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