Has Spell Check Ruined Us?

 In Food for Thought

Some of us spend all day, everyday, typing away at a keyboard. Whether writing out a report or responding to an important client, we rely on spell check to guide us. The red squiggly little line is our saviour. If you’re anything like me, you may have noticed that when left unassisted, the correct spelling of a word may take a little longer to decipher. Or maybe, your attempt at spelling of a word may turn out to be just plain wrong. This is a common fear among dictionary-lovers around the world: spell check has ruined us.

The end of spelling has been long been reported on. Dubbed the ‘auto-correct’ generation, many people grew up with spell checkers always available. One British study conducted on 2,000 people found that one-third of participates could not spell the word ‘definitely’ correctly and two-thirds had trouble with ‘necessary’. Despite this, 71% believed they were good spellers. Spell checking software became publicly available in the 1980’s and since then, people have become more and more reliant on the automated safety net to save them from embarrassment. It’s everywhere, in our email, browsers, and phone. However, you shouldn’t be too comfortable.

A growing area of research in this field are context-specific spell checkers. While a word can be spelled correctly, it may be the wrong word. The difference between ‘public’ and ‘pubic’ is only a single letter, but it changes its meaning completely. The issue is that people believe they’re competent spellers and continue on typing away without a care in the world. A Professor of Northern Illinois University wrote a tongue-in-cheek poem called ‘A Candidate For A Pullet Surprise’ to show that spell-checkers won’t catch words that are wrong in a particular context.

So remember, a spell checker won’t catch everything. So cheque you oar spell in.

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