grammar lessons

Common writing mistakes that spell check won’t find
by Kelly Smith

You’ve been writing for hours. You spent days researching your topic and taking notes. You’re finally finished—almost. If you’ve been in this situation, you might have counted on the spell check function of your word processing system to keep your writing free of errors. However, spell check can and does miss errors, and it’s always a good idea to go back one last time and read what you’ve written. Need help finding the motivation to read over your document one last time?

Here are some common writing mistakes that spell check isn’t going to find.

• Verb tense—you have to know it
Spell check won’t be able to tell that you should have used the present tense rather than the past tense of “run”. You have to pay special attention when reviewing your work to verb tense, as this is a very common mistake.

• Pronouns—the gender is up to you
She, he, it; hers, his, its – you need to make sure your pronouns are correct. Using the wrong pronoun gives your work a sloppy feel, and you definitely don’t want to portray yourself as a lazy writer.

• Missing words—when your thoughts are faster than your fingers
When you’re in the zone and writing, the message going from your brain to your fingers doesn’t always compute. That’s why you might forget “the”, “a”, or “an”. Spell check isn’t going to notice that a word isn’t there.

• The wrong word…but it’s still a word
We all sometimes misuse words. “Rather” and “whether” are often confused, as well as “imply” and “infer”. It’s also easy to mistype one word and end up with another, “manager” becomes “manger” for example. Of course you know what you meant to write, but a reader could be confused by the misplaced word.

• Repetition
Spell check will often catch an error if you accidentally type the same word twice in a row. However, if you repeat a sentence or unintentionally copy and paste a paragraph, you’re going to have to notice that mistake in your final review.

• A compound word…or not?
Spell check is not going to indicate a mistake if you fail to create compound words. For example, if you type “snow flake”, spell check will not let you know that it should be “snowflake”. While the meaning of your words won’t be lost due to this mistake, it will cause a mental stumble for your reader.

• Homophones—the biggest room for error
Finally, the majority of typos that pass the spell check test and also tend to stump a writer are homophones. Homophones are words with identical pronunciations but different meanings. Here are a few examples:
 Two, to, too (for tips on how to remember which is which click here)
 They’re, their, there (for tips on how to remember which is which click here)
For info on homophones and how to remember which is which click here

Spell check is a wonderful convenience for writers as a tool to help review your work. However there’s no replacement for taking the time to review your own writing, especially due to some of the errors that spell check simply can’t catch.

Kelly Smith is a technology addict and an experienced writer at CourseFinder (a great resource to find Australian online courses). She combines her huge interest in new tech solutions and leadership trends with her love for writing.