Monday, January 26, 2009

Be Cautious with Auto-Correct

As I’ve not been inspired by any heinous grammatical failings in the past week, I thought I’d warn you all of the insidious influence of the auto-correct feature available in many kinds of word processing software. Certainly, it’s handy to have your typographical errors corrected without having to stop and find them yourself, but allowing your computer to think for you will never replace careful proofreading.

As a case in point, I have had two notable typos that I blame completely on my word processor. The first arose from my inability to spell the name William without stopping at least twice to make certain the letters are in the correct order. My fingers insist on spelling it “Wililam”. I’ve added this spelling to my autocorrect feature, which means that I never actually misspell it any more.

Unless, that is, I’m creating the URL for a page that includes the name. While I could compose the rest of the information in a word processor, that one thing needed to be entered by hand. Having forgotten my name-spelling weakness, I didn’t check what I’d entered until I tried to find the site later. Imagine my chagrin, and how carefully I pored over the rest of the page after I found it.

My second example reveals a different problem with auto-correct, namely that sometimes your computer doesn’t know what you mean. I recently asked someone in an e-mail, in essence, if he had a “like” I could include in the post he had inspired. I don’t know what letters I actually had typed, but they had been “corrected” to like rather than link. I didn’t catch that on a quick read-through and, unsurprisingly, received a rather confused response from the gentleman in question.

Let my proofreading failures stand as a warning to you. Tools help, but you can’t always trust them. Remember to proofread carefully, rather than depending on those squiggly lines to alert you to your errors.