It’s fairly obvious that I am going to be a little bit biased when it comes to the argument about spellchecks and grammar programmes versus the human proofreader. I was spurred on to write this as I recently noticed a few things while I was proofreading in Microsoft Word that confirmed my stance on this. I made a note of these observations and this article is the result. I can’t make any claims about the effectiveness of programmes such as Grammarly as I prefer to rely on my own trained abilities than that of a computer programme (call me cynical!) and I haven’t used them. This article is based purely on Word’s spellcheck facility.
- Word does not pick up on those bloomin’ double spaces following full stops. It was common in the typewriter days, before computers, to always use two spaces after a full stop. I was taught to double space in my typing classes at school (I’m really showing my age now, who else remembers that resounding ‘ping’?). The double space is now considered old-fashioned and, while it largely comes down to a matter of style, the double space can be distracting and you don’t want to take your reader’s eyes away from your message.
- It will not highlight the wrong use of a homophone. What’s a homophone? It’s two or more words that are pronounced the same but mean different things; think to, too and two. (Check out my Pesky Words blog posts for more information on these words.) Because the word is spelled correctly the spellcheck ignores it. This causes issues with the meaning in your sentences.
- It will not tell you if a sentence or word needs to be taken over or taken back. For example, a sentence that has been inadvertently subject to an overzealous tap of the enter key and is in the wrong position.
- The spellcheck does not recognise when the punctuation that makes up dialogue is missing. Dialogue is set out in a very specific way and the Word spellcheck does not pick up when a quotation mark, comma or full stop is missing.
- It does not always recognise missing full stops, especially at the end of a paragraph.
- Inconsistencies in spelling are not highlighted. Part of the proofreader’s job is to ensure that all words that can be spelled in different ways – for example, focused and focussed – are the same and consistent throughout your manuscript.
- It does not differentiate between hyphens, en rules or em rules. There is a world of difference between these three different length lines and I will be writing a blog post to explain them in the near future.
- It will not highlight mistakes in style conventions such as using italics for TV programme titles, book titles, et cetera.
- The spellcheck does not offer that all-important human touch. You can’t ask for the spell check’s overall opinion of your work or get an explanation of the changes that have been suggested.
- And finally, I can’t imagine a spellcheck getting a wonderful review like this one:
‘I used Pilcrow Proofreading for my latest novel and the service was fantastic. Abbie has a phenomenal beady eye and picked up on all of the little things I’d missed, which has given my novel its final professional polish.
The great thing about Pilcrow Proofreading is the love of books above and beyond proofreading. Abbie genuinely invested in my novel, which provided a brilliant combination of a technical service and support network.’
(Thank you, Marilyn Bennett.)
Aside from all of this, Word insists on highlighting the word ‘proofreader’ and suggesting it is changed to two words or hyphenated when it is one word … this is a personal pet peeve and it drives me up the wall!
So, if you want your manuscript to be treated with the love and care it deserves – after all you have invested a lot of your own time, love and care into it – I recommend going with the human proofreader over the spellcheck programme every time.
Get in touch via the contact page if you want to talk about your project, the services I can offer and for a no obligation quote.