Posted by: suekenney | December 14, 2017

Hamlet’s Soliloquy, Revisited…

(With my humble apologies to Mssr. Shakespeare and to all you scansion-meisters out there)

To spell-check or not to spell-check, that is the question: 

Whether ’tis nobler on the page to suffer 

Your own horrific sense of how to spell 

Or to take Spell-check at its word and thus 

Find another sea of troubles.  To spell, 

To check, and hope that you aren’t led astray 

By their and there and they’re; by its and it’s;

By adds or adze; and more.  Let’s try to end 

The heartache when the teacher says you’re wrong — 

The stolen points, the shame of writing “taut” 

When really “taught” was what you meant.  ‘Tis a   

Consummation devoutly to be wished: 

To shuffle off the mortal risk and pause 

To use the dictionary, to look up 

Conclusively each word we hold in doubt, 

Not just blindly grasp the first choice offered.

Well, by now I hope you get my point.  Spell-check has its uses, but I wouldn’t call it the strongest weapon in a writer’s arsenal.  That’s any writer using a word processing program, of course.  There are words, for instance, that I will use that aren’t in Spell-check’s limited repertoire, so of course it will flag them.  And if a word sounds like another but is spelled differently, Spell-check won’t flag it at all.  (Grammar-check might, but that’s a post for another day.)


No, Spell-check is not the most useful tool.  But it does have some use.  Here I give a small sample of some of the more glaring typos I’ve seen recently on our local TV news:  stomr (for storm), iwth (for with), and fleaing (for fleeing).  (The context of the third one?  “Fleaing the hurricane.”  I would say, that brings up a pretty crazy mental picture.)

All three of those words would have been flagged by Spell-check (with the possible exception of “fleaing,” “flea” being an obsolete form of “flay.”)  So yes, by all means, use Spell-check to catch the worst misspellings.  But to catch the words misspelled as other words?  Proofread.  Proofread.  PROOFREAD.  Then ask someone else to go over it for you, because all too often your own eyes will slide right over a mistake because you expect the right word to be there.

Thus Spell-check does make cowards of us all,

And thus the best use of dictionaries

Is sicklied o’er, with the crutch-like Spell-check

And other programs of its ilk, alas.



  1. Hi Sue – good to know you’re still at it! Have a lovely Christmas and a great new year.

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