I Like Rise Pudding, or..Beware the Perils of Spell Check


I would just like to qualify that first part of the title; I do like rice pudding served a la peasant….cold and straight from the tin. I prefer my baked beans that way too, come to mention it. Maybe I have stumbled upon a whole new class of cuisine! For those who aren’t terminally offended by this revelation, read on….

In my last offering here I inadvertently mentioned Spell Check, that fiendish invention designed to lull people into a sense of false security. Yep, it’s very useful for instances where those of us with over-wide fingertips accidentally press the wrong key[s] and write a nonsense word; and it does also highlight the times where we have typed faster than our brains can cope and transposed letters by mistake. What it cannot do is tell you when you’ve written utter junk [if it did, this blog would be permanently underlined with a red squiggly line].

To see just how dumb Spell Check can be I decided to create a perfectly innocuous sentence with correct, but wrong, words. The one I came up with is in the picture…not one of the words is incorrectly spelt, but the only mistake that the squiggle noticed was ‘bee’. [OK, there is a green line where I inserted an extra space erroneously, but you get the point.] It did spot that there should not be a noun in that position and informed me that I must have meant the verb ‘be’, but apart from that it was perfectly happy with my literary creation.

Spell Check is great if you already know how to spell pretty well; it will highlight the words which we all struggle with [I can finally remember how to spell necessary since I read somewhere that it is neCeSSary for a shirt to have one Collar but two Sleeves. You may thank me on the back of fifty pound notes, ask for my address or bank details in the comments section]. What it cannot, usually, do is differentiate between desert and dessertdiscreet and discrete  or, as became apparent to my surprise from the aforementioned experiment, four and for. [I expected it to pick up on that….HA, just goes to show!]

One other problem I have found. As part of Starfish English Services’ services [for want of better phraseology] I do proofreading for students, many of whom do not have English as their first language. When writing for a UK university they need to write, generally speaking, using British English spellings, yet most computers seem to default to US English. They spell words such as realize, color, and center and spell check happily allows them because it doesn’t know where in the world they are studying. Or, they spell these words in the UK style realise, colour and centre and are greeted with a plethora of red squiggles, giving them the impression they have made a multitude of errors.

Dear reader [says me, coming over all Bronte-esque] please, please, please never think that Microsoft can replace a good knowledge of spelling. True, computer programs are getting better and cleverer all the time, but I think they will have a long way to go before they can understand why I do NOT like rise pudding four desert.


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