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A Machine Cannot Read Your Mind

Let’s talk about spelling and grammar checkers ...
We are all familiar with the squiggly coloured lines that appear under a word or sentence, or the automatic changes if the software ‘thinks’ you have made a mistake. Relying purely on an electronic spelling and grammar checker could be detrimental to your document and professional identity.

Whilst these tools are handy, they may not catch every mistake. Admittedly, in the latest version of MS Word there has been a remarkable improvement in the spelling and grammar checking tool. However, it should not be relied upon. Granted there are other online applications for spelling and grammar checking, but a machine cannot read your mind!

In our part of the world it is important to make sure the spelling and grammar checker is set to Australian English. By default, most software is in American English.

As an example, perhaps the following sentence was in your document:

‘Thing are know always what their seam’

It will put a squiggly blue line under the word ‘know’ and suggest ‘no’. If you are only looking for squiggly lines you will miss the other mistakes. Upon using the suggestion your sentence now reads:

‘Thing are no always what their seam.’

Hmmm –
/ Problem 1. The sentence certainly does not make any sense.
/ Problem 2. The word ‘Thing’ should be ‘Things’.
/ Problem 3. The word ‘their’ has no squiggly line, however it is incorrect grammar. The word should be ‘they’.
/ Problem 4. The word ‘seam’ does not have a squiggly line under it either, however it is spelt incorrectly. The word should be ‘seem’.

The actual sentence should read:

'Things are not always what they seem.'

Did you notice all the mistakes upon your first read of the sentence? The spelling and grammar checker didn’t - a machine cannot read your mind!

If you rely on the spelling and grammar checker tool and only look for squiggly lines throughout your document and change it accordingly, you might be in for a nasty surprise - this is not proofreading.

Have a set of fresh eyes go over your document. Outsource your proofreading and copyediting requirements with Lightning Services Australia.

By the way, it is also advisable to set the default paper size to ‘A4’ and not ‘Letter’ (that is; if your document is not required to be on A3 or other sized paper). This is crucial in most software applications, particularly if the document is going to be converted to a PDF file then printed. It will not ‘look right’ when printed on the A4 paper that’s inserted into your printer, thus leading to wasted ink, paper and unnecessary frustration!


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