#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.

The eleventh link of Christmas: Editing tools

This is the smallest of my collections, because honestly I don’t use many tools aside from PerfectIt3 that aren’t already built in to my software.

Here you’ll find my less-than-glowing review of “Ginger,” a tip on how to respond to a comment in MS Word, and a few other tidbits.

It’s been 11 days of posts. I figure folks are getting a little bit full, so today and tomorrow are lighter fare vis a vis the post count.

Ginger Page? No thanks.

Pursuant to a discussion with Google+ user Fiber Babble about proofreaders and grammar checkers, I looked into Ginger Page, a free grammar and spelling checker (and supposedly much more) that I heard about on Twitter.

What follows is an edited version of a series of posts I made at G+ earlier this morning. You can read the original here. Continue reading “Ginger Page? No thanks.”

If Cambridge University Press ain’t safe, ain’t nobody safe.

I’ve talked about this before in other venues, but this time I’m including photographic proof.

When as prestigious a company as Cambridge University Press releases a book — and not just any book, but a dictionary with a study guide — with an egregious typographical error, we can be assured that no one is safe from the threat.

Perfection in a finished written work is a lofty goal, and one that is not always (perhaps never) attainable. Still, we should work toward it whether we’re Cambridge University or Joe Blow.

Typos 150 Yards Tall and other stories

There sure seem to be plenty of typos in the news lately. (Probably the Mayans again.)

First, a man in Washington state used his tractor to plow a marriage proposal into a field. The letters were 150 yards tall. He flew his girlfriend, Jody, up in a plane so she could see the popped question from above. Unfortunately, his tractor didn’t have a spellcheck—he had plowed the first letter of her name backward.

(The photo comes from this site; I added the arrow.)

Next, we have another entry in the Worst Possible Way to Misspell “Public” Sweepstakes. This one also comes from Washington state. (Something in the water?) The Washington Charter School Resource Center placed a newspaper ad to spotlight an upcoming conference. Neither the center nor the newspaper noticed that a crucial “L” was missing from the word “public.”

(The photo comes from this site. Interestingly, the story there links to a similar mishap that happened in May 2012, when the University of Texas handed out commencement programs to families of students graduating from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Yeah—you know what happened.)

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs issues pubic typo correction

Longtime readers of this blog might remember a banner displayed at a football game that asked sponsors to “become a partner in pubic education.”

And finally, the Toronto Sun newspaper recently ran a correction notice to fix an error about whether teachers had been paid during a work stoppage. Unfortunately, they now need to run a correction about the correction.

(The photo comes from this site; I added the arrow.)

Is there a lesson to learn here? Maybe it’s just that no matter how bad your typo is, at least it’s not plowed into the ground 150 yards tall. Probably. I can’t vouch for all of you.

Carved in stone

Some mistakes are harder to erase than others. In Oklahoma, state representative Mike Ritze sponsored a bill (and donated money) to install a granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol building. The monument is 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and it weighs 2,000 pounds.

One potential problem is that it might invite a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union because the monument violates the separation of church and state. But perhaps of more immediate concern is the fact that the granite contains a few spelling errors.

The Fourth Commandment mistakenly says, “Remember the Sabbeth day, to keep it holy.” (The correct spelling is Sabbath.)

The Tenth Commandment says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidseruant . . .” That final word, of course, should be maidservant. (Or perhaps this is actually a clever way to get around the rule. “Hey, God’s totally cool with me coveting my neighbor’s maidservant! It’s just the maidseruants I’ve gotta stay away from.”)

Ritze plans to have the misspellings corrected. No word on whether he’s adding another commandment that says, “Thou shalt not skip the spellcheck.”

The photo comes from this site.