I’ll be the first to admit that I rely too heavily on spell check. It’s so convenient to have the computer fix your mistakes for you (and if you’re anything like me, sometimes your fingers just can’t keep up with your thoughts, sacrificing correct spelling).
It happens when we text, too. There are whole websites dedicated to sharing hilarious autocorrect mishaps, which we find funny because we’ve done it ourselves.
It happens to all of us. You mistype something, but don’t realize it until you get your paper back and your professor has written big question marks next to the line that makes absolutely no sense.
Or are you just a perfect enough typer that this hasn’t happened to you yet? Then here’s a somewhat exaggerated example of what can happen when you rely too heavily on the spell check function of your word processor:
Ode to the Spell Check
Eye halve a spelling chequer
It cam with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew!
(From Jokes about Writing)
Here’s the thing: I’m not about to turn off SpellCheck, and I don’t expect you to either, but we’ve just got to be aware that proofreading papers is important.
Even if it’s not because of an over-reliance upon a spell checker, proofreading is generally good paper-writing practice. Nobody likes to lose points because of some silly mistake they would’ve fixed if they’d noticed it earlier. It also looks like you’ve spent more time on a paper that has been properly proofread, and your professor will appreciate the extra effort.
Proofreading is a step that a lot of writers skip, though. I can almost understand why. You’re so glad to have finished writing that you just want it to be done forever, or you’re too tired to do anything more than just turn it in.
One solution to that scenario would be better time management. If you give yourself more time to work, you won’t miss out on proofreading!
But here’s an even simpler solution, one that there really is no excuse not to do because it doesn’t even take that long: READ YOUR PAPER OUT LOUD.
It sounds silly. Literally, it sounds silly to do, when you’re in your dorm room talking to yourself about Chaucer or mitochondria or whatever you’re writing about- but it is so dang helpful.
When you read your work out loud, you hear it the way it is written. This gets you out of your head, allowing you to distance yourself a bit (similarly to how taking a day or two after finishing the paper before looking over it is helpful). You’ll often catch your own mistakes by realizing that certain wording sounds funky or you wrote something you didn’t mean to.
You’ll also catch those pesky spell check errors!
When you come to the Writing Center for an appointment, we’ll always ask you to read your paper aloud (or we’ll read it aloud for you- but it’s usually more effective if you do it). This helps get the surface-level errors like punctuation and spelling taken care of right of the bat, so we can help you focus on potentially bigger issues that will have a larger impact on your grade, like thesis and organization and development.
Here at the Writing Center, we’re all about helping you become a better writer, and not just having a better paper. Reading your work aloud is a great technique to include in your writing process that will help you not only be a better writer, but write better papers as a result.
Hanna, peer tutor