Spell-checkers eh? Gotta love ’em, gotta hate ’em.
Whatever you write, they improve the presentation of your copy. Even if you’re the world’s best speller, they can help you spot those invisible typos.
But spell-checkers also have a habit or garbling up your text and creating errors of their own. Take this example from a web page I was reading this morning – a fun article on real-life spy gadgets.
The post, ‘Top 10 Barely-Legal Gadgets for the Modern Spy’, includes information on a computer surveillance gismo (or is that gizmo? My spell-checker doesn’t seem to know). The blog post says:
When it has been recording a good deal of time you can take it out and plug it into your own computer enter the password and Viola!
Viola? What’s a member of the violin family go to do with a computer surveillance device? How’s it going to help?
Ah…. voilà! ‘There it is.’ But ‘voilà’ is French, so the spell-checker won’t like it.
This kind of mistake is stunningly easy to make and we all do it. But it’s a good reminder of the need to take care with spell-checkers. They’re useful, but they need human supervision.
(Note for purists: ‘voilà’ should of course have an accent on the ‘a’, which I’ve attempted to reproduce in the post. I don’t often publish French on the web, so I’m not sure how it will appear on different systems and browsers. Heck, my mac can’t seem to agree with the rest of the computer world on the difference between an apostrophe and a question mark, so French accents are dangerous territory as far as I’m concerned. If it’s been garbled on your browser, blame the gremlins.)