Monday, October 1, 2018

TO TRUST SPELL CHECK...OR NOT? by JERRY GUIN


I read with interest the excellent blog by Cheryl Pierson for Western Fictioneers, Sept. 18 (I'll be there for you even when I shouldn't be).

It was about the use of modern-day language and terms authors mistakenly use in their stories before the terms began being used in everyday talk.

Okay, to take this one step further, let's take specific word spelling and intended usage, for example.

The other day, I was reading a pretty good old west story. In a saloon sequence, one of the characters winced after he had taken a drink of whiskey.

Nothing unusual about that--however, that word, wince, rang a bell in my head. For some reason, I remembered that earlier that day, I had used the word in a similar setting, but spelled it differently. I was writing about a character who winced after he tasted his drink, but I had spelled it winched.

Per Webster’s, wince is to draw back or grimace as if in pain. Winch is defined as a machine for hoisting a heavy load. The two words have no similarity in meaning whatsoever.


I put my book down and immediately went to the computer and made the correction. I was relieved to know that, at least, the error was corrected before going further.

Almost everyone makes those kinds of mistakes. To the computer, both words are correct, and the spell check cannot pick up on your intended usage.

Lots of other words have plural meanings or are, at least, pesky to put into intended proper usage.

How about these: made and maid, or roam and Rome, or rhyme and rime?






























Can you think of any?

I've always felt that I have a creative, open mind when writing, and try to think of the next sequence as I write. The first draft is just that. I figure to make corrections after I re-read the next day, but I have found that no matter how many times I read my own work, my mind doesn't allow me to see misused words or what would constitute a mistake. Therefore, I know that it takes an outside party to pick up on needed corrections.

I appreciate a good editor; someone, who can not only put the commas in the right place, but who is able to point out inconsistency or redundancy, and possibly advise on the story line, as well. Without a correction, at times, I could put out a story that would appear to be gibberish...and that would make me wince.


https://www.amazon.com/Livin-Jacks-Queens-Anthology-Gambling-ebook/dp/B07H38ZFJR/ref=sr_1_5?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1537756306&sr=1-5&keywords=Jerry+Guin&dpID=51Nvl2YgF7L&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

20 comments:

  1. You hit 'the nail on the head'. Spellcheck is a useful tool, but not an editor. I agree, even when we do our best when re-reading, our mind will see what we thought we wrote, not what we did. Thank you for the reminder. Doris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I smile when I find one of my own mistakes. Can imagine others might raise an eyebrow, if it got that far.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  2. Oh, and some of those mistakes are sooooo embarrassing, too. The worst thing is that our eyes just read "over" the missing letter and supply it, or see a word that isn't there at all -- but we know it should be. I don't ever use spell check. Mistakes will always get by us, we can only do the best we can do--but that includes getting another set (or 3 or 4 sets) of eyes on it to see what they might pick up!

    Great post, Jerry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Cheryl.
      I do want to avoid embarrassments, so another set of eyes are essential.

      Delete
  3. A piece every writer can relate to. We've all felt that pain!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, but I hope to get better in the future.

      Delete
  4. Jerry,

    Hello my clever friend, an interesting article.

    I have a terrible time with editing, which also involves rewrites, correcting logic, along with all the other line by line editing that is required by a professional or as you say, an outside source.

    Another aspect of editing and using correct words spell check doesn't pick up, is TRANSITION. I TRY to solve this problem by reading the manuscript out loud to correct the flow and stream of words, sentences, and paragraphs. (Sometimes up to four times. Very time consuming.)

    Mark Twain said, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning."

    I NEVER SMILE WHEN I FIND A MISTAKE IN A PUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT! Oh...the horror of it all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The smile is only when I find the error in my own work. If I find an obvious misuse of a word in a book by someone else, all I can say is ouch. I feel for them.
      Nice to hear from you, Charlie.

      Delete
  5. An important article, Jerry. I use spell check for an initial run-through to get the typos and speed up the edit so I can concentrate on a read through and not be distracted by constantly having to correct words. The words with the dropped "g's" and deliberate grammar errors drives spell check and grammar check crazy. Even with several reads, I missed that I had written 1986 instead of 1886 in a recent blog, something spell check wouldn't notice, so I had to add a comment, although I'm pretty certain the reader would have figured it out from the context. It's amazing how many errors one finds when reading the newspaper, making me wonder about the copy editor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Getting the date right brings back an old incident in my memory.
      When quite young, I worked a couple weeks in a print shop. It was my job to edit a just printed poster. l695 was erroneously used instead of l965. I didn't catch it and neither did any of my co-workers until the job was finished.
      Glad to hear from you, Elizabeth.

      Delete
  6. Jerry, this is much food for thought indeed, and most of us authors try to do our best, but we're all human and can make the silliest mistakes sometimes. I agree, we either mispell the word, use the wrong word, and one of my biggest beefs and one I have to watch myself all the time at is to use a word that hasn't come into usage for the time period. I usually don't use spell check, but I do hit the icon for Google and check for spelling, or ask what date the word was first used, and sometimes I use it to use a synonym for a word if I want to be different. Thank goodness for Goggle--my savior. It seems we always have to check our work, then recheck, and recheck again. I so enjoyed your blog. Nice to meet you too, and as a matter of fact I have Livin' on Jacks and Queens on my TBR list, and look forward to all those stories. Wishing you much success with this one and all in the future. Now if I could just use the word gunslinger (didn't come in to use until 1928)in my western historical romance (WIP) instead of gunman I'd be delighted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beverly,
      Getting the correct usage of a word, in its correct time frame, can be tricky.
      The one that I catch myself and have to look up all the time is. Hays City, Kansas. Was so named until 1895 then changed to Hays. Fortunately what stories I have written, concerning that town, are all prior to 1895 so I have to remember to add City.

      Delete
  7. Great thoughts and so true. Another set of eyes is priceless. Those internet posts that say you're a genius if you can read this paragraph, then they have gibberish with only the first and last letter being correct, and maybe upside down? Yeah. No genius, but I read those fluently. Does not bode well for self-editing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't seen any posts like that, Darrel. Hope to avoid them.
      If I self edit, I tend to put in too many commas.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Darrel

      Delete
  8. Good article, Jerry. The editing tools are amazing these days. They make the old days of manual typewriters, dictionaries, carbon paper and bottles of tippex seem so far away.

    I find spellcheck invaluable, especially if writing a western, as the US English dictionary automatically picks up my UK English spelling. Of course, when writing for a British publisher I have to remember to change the dictionary back again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find myself using a dictionary or asking Wikipedia about something quite often.
      Hey, having to switch from US English to UK English would be a challenge.
      Thanks for stopping by, Keith.

      Delete
  9. Here's something I run into with spellcheck frequently: Its and It's. The contraction it's stands for it is (It's not that far from Charlotte to Mint Hill.) and its is the possessive (Its hair stood on end.) Spellcheck would make me get this wrong if I accepted its advice.

    Unfortunately, I have made mistakes like yours, Jerry, but no one caught it so the story published with the big old glaring hot word mess in it. The truth is I can only self edit just so much and then I go word blind. I need an actual editor.

    Great blog, Jerry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sarah, I hear you. That extra set of eyes becomes invaluable.

      Delete
  10. Jerry,

    The funniest suggestion I've encountered from using Word's spellcheck was with a character's name. The character is a priest. His name is Father Bartolo. Spellcheck suggested I correct it to Father Barstool.

    My point is, spellcheck and grammar programs are tools to use with caution. They should never be considered the final 'say' in editing and proofreading.

    No matter how many times we proofread and have others proofread, there are going to be typos and mistakes. It happens. Our hope is when it's our own work that it's not devastatingly embarrassing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those folks giving that version, obviously the only version that spell check had is funny, Kaye.
      Yes, caution to the user. Good example of the actual spelling of a word not being in others vocabulary files.

      Delete