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3.02 Spell checking

Spell-checking functions are now included in word-processing programs for use with computers. They can help you eliminate, at the proofreading stage, most of the spelling and typographical errors in a document. Especially useful are the "search" feature, which can instantly locate a specific combination of letters, and the "search-and-replace" feature, which can find all instances of a misspelled word or variant spelling and replace them with the correct or preferred form.

Spell-checking programs do have the following drawbacks:

  • They cannot detect omissions of words.
  • They do not flag correctly spelled words that are incorrect in the specific context. Thus the sentence

    Ewe bake two manly arrows.

    would be approved by a spell checker for a sentence that should read

    You make too many errors.

  • Unless they are part of a larger grammar-checking utility, they do not identify words that are grammatically wrong. Thus the sentence

    He do not understands.

    would not be flagged.

  • They may not respect the spelling preferences of your organization or your clients. In this case, you can usually modify the content of the spell-checker dictionary.
  • The search-and-replace feature can result in misspellings that have to be reversed manually. For example, you may have decided to use the spelling honour instead of honor, the variant listed in American spell-checker dictionaries. Instructing the spell checker to make a universal change will affect even correctly spelled words such as honorarium, honorific and honorary as well as words placed in quotes or followed by [sic]. To avoid the error, give the command


    instead of just


    A variation of this command is required to cover specific occurrences such as honor followed by a period.