spellcheck your spellchecker

Make sure you spellcheck your spellchecker.

bad spelling

Whilst word processers have made writing easier, they’ve also made writers lazier. Editing and proofreading seems to have become an afterthought in a world of on-the-spot auto-correction.

“The problem is, spellcheck will not fined words witch are miss used butt spelled write.”

Case in point: an ordinary spellchecker will find no errors in the above sentence. This is because spellchecker can only detect if words are spelled correctly, not if they are used correctly. It can’t spot clumsy grammar errors, nor can it query facts, dates or events. In truth, though a handy tool for flagging obvious errors and typos, good copy checking requires a human eye. An editor’s eye.


The following mistakes are exactly the sort of errors a spellchecker can’t catch:

Homonyms: Words which sound the same but have different meanings (e.g. there/their, pair/pare, heroine/heroin). Obvious to a human, unidentifiable to a hard drive.

Compound Words: Accidentally split your compound (e.g. ‘bed room’, ‘snow flake’)? Spellcheck won’t spot this, but your supervisor most certainly will.

Verb Tense: Spellcheck doesn’t care what tense you write in. For that matter, it doesn’t care if you muddle up dates either (“I graduated in 2025…”). Be sure you don’t migrate between past and present – and, indeed, future.

Repetition: The only repetition spellcheck senses is if you write two words concurrently concurrently (just testing). Other erroneous repetition, such as the same word duplicated multiple times in one sentence/paragraph – or the recurrence of a similar phrase/sentence – won’t be detected.

Wrong Usage: Typos happen.  Deal with it. And don’t rely on your spellchecker, which will not pick up a word spelled correctly but used inaccurately (e.g. ‘martial’ when you mean ‘marital’, ‘dessert’ when you mean ‘desert’, ‘pubic’ when you mean ‘public’).

Missing Word: Brain thinking faster than your fingers? Easily done. Easily fixed. Just not by your spellcheck, which isn’t intelligent enough to spot spaces in your sentences.

Incorrect Pronouns: ‘His’ or ‘hers’, ‘she’ or ‘he’ –spellcheck doesn’t understand gender, so you have to be pernickety about your own pronouns. Look carefully for incorrect instances of ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ too – a proofreader’s pet peeve.


A spellcheck tool is handy for screening small, common errors as you draft your essay, but should not be used as a substitute for good old-fashioned proofreading by a person.