Spell check is a wonderful thing… or is it? (Cue the scary music!)
I have read thousands of college and scholarship applications and I can always tell when the only human eyes that have read the essays are the students.
I can hear them saying, “Spell check would catch any spelling mistakes. No one else needs to see this. It’s ready to submit.”
And I’m afraid, very afraid, of what I might be reading in their personal statement.
There be pirates in them papers. And sin. And even bunnies.
Let me explain.
Spell check is fantastic. It’s not as dangerous as auto-correct, but in the wrong hands, it will wreak havoc on your essays. You see, spell check only catches spelling errors. It can’t tell you if the word is in the correct place or even makes sense in that sentence. It only knows if you spelled the word correctly.
So I read a sentence like this…
I’m going to me friend’s house! (and I hear, aarrgh, matey!) or
I’m packing me bags (and shiver me timbers!)
Or here’s another example. Once I read a sentence that said,
My mother put sin many hours at work.
I don’t know about you, but when I read “sin” in a sentence about someone’s mother, I worry. I know the student meant to write that his mother “puts in” many hours, but sin is a word and so spell check thinks that’s a fantastic sentence. Yikes!
Finally, there is the danger of hitting “correct all” when you spell something wrong. Then, thinking your essay is fine, you hit submit immediately after that. I know this happened when a high school student sent in an essay that she thought was all about her passion for majoring in international business. Unfortunately, after hitting correct all when she misspelled business, and relying too much on spell check to fix it correctly, and not leaving enough time to reread it, her essay really described her desire to major in………………….. international bunnies!
A major we did not offer.
Here are two ways to avoid these mistakes…
- Ask someone else to read your essays, papers, resumes, anything you write before you turn it in. It doesn’t have to be a teacher or an English major (though I am available!), just someone who will be able to spot when something doesn’t sound right. Better yet, ask a few people to read your work. Even the best authors, who make a ton of money by writing, have editors!
- Ask someone to read it out loud to you! This works because the other person will read what you wrote, not what they thought you wrote.
Let me explain. When you work on an essay or a paper and do it for a long time through a few revisions, you know what it’s supposed to say. It’s easy, when you’re reading it, to skip over an extra word or a spelling mistake because your brain will read what you thought you wrote. When another person reads it, they’ll read what is actually on the paper, not what was in your head.
Unless they are a mind reader. (Cue the scary music!)
Now you know that spell check can be a great help, but to let another pair (or two!) of eyes review your work. You have two great ways to get help with your writing. I know that you’ll submit a proofread and polished paper that won’t tell anyone about your hope to major in international bunnies!
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