9 Spelling and Grammar Mistakes Spell Check Won’t Catch
There are some human errors that only humans can catch.
Why you should never rely too heavily on spell check…
Yes, you’re only human, and humans make typos. But one little error might be all it takes to lower your grade on that term paper, or to ruin your resume. As tempting as it may be to rely on spell check to catch all of your goofs, the tool has its limits, and it can’t play the role of a careful pair of proofreading eyes.
Humans make errors, sure—but in these nine cases, they can also fix them way more effectively than a computer can.
1. The wrong word
Spell check does just that: catches words that are spelled wrong. But if you write the wrong word altogether, spell check won’t save you if that word is spelled correctly. If you type “their” instead of “there,” “you’re” instead of “your,” or, like this poor woman, “manure” instead of “mature,” it’s up to you to correct the error.
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2. The wrong name
If you frequently have to compose the same email or message to several different people, it can be tempting to copy and paste the entire message. But never do that without reading over the message first. If it says “Dear Steve” but you’re writing to Julie… Well, that’s just plain embarrassing—not to mention, if Julie is a potential employer, it could cost you the job offer.
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3. What’s missing?
The good news is that, if you miss a single letter by mistake, spell check will catch it. (Unless, of course, it’s still a word without the missing letter—“public” vs. “pubic,” anyone?) But it’s also all too easy to skip a whole word, especially if the word is tiny and you’re typing really fast. While a missing “a” or “the” won’t completely alter the meaning of your sentence, it’ll still give your readers pause, and it can make you look lazy or sloppy.
4. Compound words
If you’re confused about whether something is one or two words, trusting spell check will only make matters more confusing. For instance, “everyday” and “every day” have pretty different meanings. So do “altogether” and “all together.” But they’re both spell check-approved, even if you’re using one where you should be using the other.
5. Punctuation errors
Spell check clearly needs to get its priorities straight; punctuation can save lives, and yet spell check won’t flag that missing comma. Nor will it save you if you use “it’s” instead of “its.” Apostrophes are one of the most common, and most noticeable, culprits of punctuation errors.
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6. Redundant redundancy
If you’ve made a lot of changes to whatever you’re writing—a school paper, for instance—you’ve probably rearranged paragraphs and sentences here and there. All it takes is one copy-and-paste error to have the same sentence (or even whole paragraph) in two different spots in your essay, email, or blog post. And while spell check will catch the mistake if you accidentally type the same word twice, it won’t catch a repeated sentence.
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7. Verb tenses
If you switch into past tense while you’re using present, or just type the wrong verb form by mistake, it’s up to you to catch the offending verb.
8. Formatting errors
Raise your hand if you’ve ever accidentally hit the caps lock button. Yeah, us too. While it’s one of the easiest errors for you (or your readers!) to catch, spell check won’t alert you to a change in formatting, whether it’s accidental caps lock, bold, or italics. Whether accidental or intentional, the use of all caps can definitely be off-putting for your readers, especially in an email.
9. Speaking of caps lock…
Even if you misspell a word, spell check won’t catch it if the word is in all caps; this is to spare you a barrage of red squiggles if you frequently type acronyms. But the flip side is that it doesn’t help you if your fingers slip up while you’re typing a regular old word in all caps, like a title or a heading.
Originally published as 9 Spelling and Grammar Mistakes Spell Check Won’t Catch on ReadersDigest.com.