|Column: Check, please
Tuesday, May 4, 1999
By Jessica Loder
For the final week of this school year, I have one piece of advice for all last-minute term paper writers: Watch your spell checker carefully.
Microsoft Word 97's jagged teeth of red and green indicating an error in your English eat the prettiest of phrases while coloring the page like a Christmas card. Sometimes an entire sentence or paragraph falls victim to the text-based disease of supposed spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.
"Supposed" is the key word, since the spell checker makes a concerted effort to mess up a paper as much as possible. It finds fault with phrases and sentences that clearly look and sound right.
The evil spell checker gets me on the very first line of any piece. According to it, my last name is wrong, and should correctly be called "Jessica Older." I suppose the spell checker does not have a built in tact function, so I must just accept the added age.
Proper names represent a real problem for computers. Most names of people and buildings on campus puzzle them, and when something confuses the computer, out come the red and green lines. The computer can sit back then, secure in the realization it has performed its vital service once more.
Spell check also has a problem with sentence fragments. In fact, it even finds fault with sentences that really are not fragments. If a verb used in a proper sentence does not appear in the computer's dictionary, you are wrong. It has no verb! Well, no verb according to the computer anyway.
Do not take this as an attack on spell checkers as a whole. Without them, I could not spell any word over six letters with any degree of accuracy.
I do, however, caution against the blatant and uninformed overuse of it. Look at the proposed changes before you choose them. If you click on "spell check" and just accept everything, the computer sees an opportunity to assert its dominance. Soon it might replace the "correct" button with the "Yes, I agree to sell my soul to you" button and things could get quite bad.
So, in conclusion, wile spell check can bee a big help, it can knot due everything, sew bee cautious in its use.