I’m going to tell you something shocking. Are you ready? If you’re sending me a submission or a manuscript, I want you to use spell check.
Here’s the thing, a lot is often said about how writers and editors shouldn’t depend on spell check or grammar check. And that is absolutely true. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use spell check. It doesn’t mean that at all. It only means that you shouldn’t depend on Word finding all of your errors for you, you need another human (probably more than one which is why there are critique partners, beta readers, proofreaders, editors and copy editors). But before you send out a manuscript, you should still run spell check. Because it really does find spelling errors. It often surprises me how I can get a fairly clean manuscript–except the author clearly never ran spell check. I don’t get it.
Not only will running spell check point out the obvious spelling errors, but it will sometimes point out things like inconsistencies in name spellings. Spell check allows you to add anything you want to your dictionary (like character names). As you run through, if it’s a different spelling–very easy to do especially when you’re using funky names, like in sci fi or fantasy–spell check will flag it as a spelling error because it’s not in the dictionary. Little things like that don’t seem like a big deal, but every step or change you save your editor is much appreciated.
Other things to consider since we’re talking about spell check, is using spell check in other areas. For instance, I use Firefox as my browser and it comes equipped with a spell check. Every time I misspell something–here in a blog post, in a comment or on a forum–Firefox adds a little red squiggle to it so I can correct it. It helps make my posts/comments, etc look that much more polished. Not to say they’re error free, but I’m saved a lot of embarrassing (like that word right there, I can’t spell it correctly ever! Thank goodness for spell check) errors that people would expect editors not to make. Though I have to say, if you expect a perfect blog post from me that’s completely error-free, as some commenters in the past have tried to imply, then probably we’re going to have to talk about you paying to read the blog so I can pay an editor to edit me. Bwahahaha. Funny, right? But the point is that spell check will save you from making basic spelling errors.
I think readers are also more impressed by an author who gives the appearance of having polished work by presenting their comments more polished as well. It’s a mind trick, but presentation on a public forum does leave an impression. There are times I see authors posting and cringe a little at the multiple spelling, grammar, etc errors. Some of those can be avoided to lessen the cringe factor.
Same goes for email. Running spell check on every email that goes out your inbox will do the same. Again, as with Word and manuscripts, spell check won’t catch every error, and no one expects every post, comment or email to be without its errors, but it’s an easy thing to do to help step up your game!
Some links for those who want to use spell check with Firefox–Firefox has it embedded in the browser, so it’s just a matter of making sure it’s turned on!, Internet Explorer, and Outlook/Outlook Express. Embrace your spell check today!
ETA: I felt the need to say again, that spell check won’t find every error and that spell check isn’t always right in telling you something is wrong, but it’s still better than not using it at all!