Writing Tips at GarySpeer.com

Tips for writers and musing about writing and life

If only there were a barcode scanner add-on for spell check

Yeah, I know. The title of this post is sort of silly — because there is no such thing as a barcode scanner for spell checking software. I’m not even sure what such a thing would look like or how you would use it. But it expresses something inherently weak or faulty about spell checkers: They can detect misspelled words, but they have no way of detecting “wrong” word usage. (Grammar checkers get into that a little bit, but I don’t use them enough to be sure about how they work.)

Here’s a simple example of the problem inherent in spell checkers:

“I took the train form New York to California.”

If you run spell check on that, you’ll get nothing. The word “form” is a properly spelled word. It’s also an easy typo to make for “from” — the correct word to use in that sentence.

So what we really need is a sort of “mind reading” software that automatically says, “No, Gary. You really didn’t intend to use ‘form’ there. You intended to use ‘from,’ so let me correct that for you.

Alas, until that mind reading software comes along, we’ll have to handle it the old-fashioned way: Reread and edit your work to catch such errors. Hey, everybody makes mitsakes, but we have to try and correct theme, right?