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In a Word...

Posted on 28th March 2011

I was all set to impart some wisdom this week about how to get the most out of your Word spell checker but have been slightly flummoxed by a friend's story.

My theory was to remove manger from your dictionary because, unless your line of work is heavily involved with the nativity scene, it's not often you need to write manger, whereas the amount of times you write manager ordinarily outweighs this. However, a friend used to work for a company that accidentally sent out Christmas cards to their clients saying 'Away in a Manager' - whoops! Perhaps it is just my slightly silly mind but that could mean a few too many things... Surely that's an anomaly though and if you doubt you will ever need to discuss mangers then removing the word from your dictionary could save you embarrassment with job applications, CVs, essays etc.

Your computer based dictionary really can work for you, especially if you are writing about very niche subjects - add the words that you know are correct including names of people and then you won't need to check the spelling every time you type it. I recently proofread a PhD thesis on international relations that regularly included the term 'Weltanschauung' (German for World View) and once I had added it to my dictionary, it also then instantly told me when it was incorrectly typed - I would like to think I would have noticed Weltanschauuung without Word underlining it in red, but it's a useful tool and aid for ensuring consistency of spelling.

This brings me on to one of my biggest pet hates - do not always believe Word (or your computer's writing programme)! It's a computer and grammatically only knows so much. The amount of times it tries to make me change 'the staff are happy' to 'the staff is happy' never fails to bug me. Collective nouns are just too complex for my computer but I have learned to override it. That's where you need confidence in your own grammar and spelling. Don't be cajoled into changing your work just because a computer tells you it's wrong. Learn to get your programme 'on side' so to speak, and it can be a great help but don't rely purely on a spell check at the end of your work. I leave you with one final example of why not. Last week I was sent some advertising inviting me to a training session where the company claimed 'We're ruining our course on April 25th'. Ruining it?! Are you sure you're not running it...?

Written by Kate Haigh.