Don’t put the petal to the medal.

Don’t put the petal to the medal.

Don’t rely on spell check to catch your errors. You want to be fast, but it’s still wrong to put the petal to the medal.

Isn’t modern life amazing?  I’m old enough to have composed college papers in longhand or on a typewriter. (An electric typewriter, mind you. I’m not ancient!) In the 1980s we didn’t rely so heavily on personal computers, word processing programs, or spell check. We memorized how to spell words or kept a dictionary handy.

I’m not going to lie. I’m not the best speller. My grammar is also subject to correction. However, the advent of spell check in the programs we use to write (or text!) gives us a false sense of security.  If we don’t see the red squiggly line, we think we have avoided errors.

Here are a few tips to keep your content professional looking:

1. Slow down. I know you are on a deadline and there are other things you need to get to. At least re-read your email, report or blog post before publishing.

2. Read the content backwards, word by word. Our eyes and brains are wonderful but they can trick us into seeing what we want to see, not what is really there.  You know what your sentence is supposed to say. Your mind won’t believe your eyes if the text says something different.

3. Ask someone you trust to read your content before it is published.  Unless we are talking about your personal diary kept under miniature lock and key, your writing is meant to be read by others. It is better to have someone you trust read it before it is presented to the unforgiving public.  Please make sure that person is a good speller and knows grammar at least as well as you do.

This hint goes beyond spelling, of course. Writing is meant to communicate ideas clearly. Clarity flows from refinement. The best author you ever read probably had an editor.

4. Write more than one draft.  Set aside your writing and come back to it with fresh eyes.  You will be amazed at how much you will want to change.

5. Warning! Radical Idea Alert! Turn off spell check.  If you are letting errors through with the spellchecker active, what harm is there in trying something different?  Turning it off will force you to slow down and use a dictionary.

Just for fun, consider that a spellchecker will see nothing wrong with the following sentences.

Ewe are sew write! Eye sea awl the errs witch cant bee scene buy a computer.  Their two tough too reed ant they wood slip threw.

(If you feel inspired, please add your own malformed sentences in the comments!)