#SpellcheckCannotSaveYou: a bit of explanation

This has gotten a little attention in the last month or so, mostly thanks to June Casagrande (a fantastic editor-person who’s written a number of highly accessible grammar and style books, most of which I own). One thing that some folks don’t quite understand is why it’s “cannot” and not “won’t” or “will not.”

Simple. And it’s got NOTHING to do with the fucking apostrophe (which kills a hashtag every time, y’know).

I don’t care whose software it is; the fact is, no spellcheck program is able to save you from yourself. It is incapable. It is unable. It CANNOT save you. It can ensure you won’t have any egregious misspellings, but when it comes to homonyms, it cannot save you. If the word’s spelled correctly, but still the wrong word, spellcheck is unable, incapable, powerless to save you.

It’s not a case of it being unwilling to perform, or uninterested in doing the job.

It cannot perform that duty. Only a human brain in conjunction with human eyes and reasoning abilities can parse the difference between cleaver and clever. No spellchecker will flag either of those words, unless for some reason you have manually told it to. (You did know you have that kind of control, right? Like, telling the program to always flag the word “pubic” to save you from mortification?)

Spellcheck cannot save you from errors stemming from correctly spelled words used incorrectly. Not that it will not (although technically, that’s true — it won’t save you, but there’s more to the sense behind the phrasing), but that it cannot. It is not capable. It is unable. It cannot perform that action.

Spellcheck cannot save you.

Obligatory new year post

Not “New Year,” because this has next to nothing to do with the holiday that’s several days past already. Just “new year,” because in fact it is a new year.

Last year there were quite a few changes in our household, but I’m not here to talk about them. Face it; you don’t give a shit about what happens in my house. Not unless it’s editing, and especially if it’s editing YOUR project. So, don’t sweat it. This isn’t the blog equivalent of some dreadful/dreaded holiday letter. Continue reading “Obligatory new year post”

Back to basics: commas and appositives

I’ll bet I scared someone already with the last word in that title.

Let’s start at the beginning. This post came about because of a conversation on Twitter, begun by this tweet from Andy Bechtel (@andybechtel):

I’m not agreeing with that decision, either. Nor are many folks. But there are a few who don’t understand why it’s wrong. This post is for them. (Maybe it’s for you. I don’t know.) Continue reading “Back to basics: commas and appositives”

I failed an editing test.

Made you look, didn’t I?

It’s true. A couple of years ago, I took a technical editing test for someone who runs an editorial services company, of which many clients are suppliers to the government. The test comprised a spelling section and a practical section. The latter was a six-page proposal (I’m sure there’s a special term for it, but I’m not aware of what it would be) in a Word file. The instructions were to edit for prose flow, AmE idiom (not use of idioms, per se, but “natural” wording), and GUMmy stuff.

I took my best shot, and sent it off.  Continue reading “I failed an editing test.”

ACES 2017: The rest of it

Friday night, as I said last time, was the banquet. Because so many of us editor women have embraced colorful hair, there was a group photo taken before we were seated. Eleven of us assembled in front of the (old) ACES logo sign in the hallway for our moment of fame. The largest discussion focused on whether we should line up in ROYGBIV order. (We did not.) As most of us are purple of some flavor or other, we were in the middle, with the green, blue, orange, and red on the outside. Molly McCowan (@InkbotEditor) has rainbow streaks in her blonde mane, and took center position. (I envy her ink.) Continue reading “ACES 2017: The rest of it”