How to Use Spell Check More Effectively

Spell Check is a wonderful addition to word processors. It helps us catch spelling errors and mistypings. The squiggly red line is our lifeline — but it shouldn’t.

The problem with spell check is that it doesn’t catch everything. Did you type form instead of from? Form is spelled correctly, so it won’t be flagged. Other errors like this fly by unnoticed by spell check, demoting the helpful program from lifeline to nice tool to have in your toolbox.

Some word processors have a grammar check that functions similar to spell check, but these grammar checkers don’t catch everything either, or they get it wrong in the first place.

Microsoft Word calls their spell check abc Check Document, and it checks both Spelling and Grammar, depending on your settings. You can find it in the Review Tab.

Google Docs’ spell check is called Spelling and Grammar, and it is found under Tools.

How to use spell check effectively

Just because spell check doesn’t catch everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. It’s still a wonderful program, and it can still help you out. You just can’t only rely on the program.

Editing Tip: use Spell Check First

Use spell check first

Before you read through your manuscript, use spell check. This will catch the major misspellings, leaving you to look for the more intricate ones or commonly confused words. This also saves you time from having to find every spelling error. Let the tool do its job and catch as much as it can before you do the work yourself.

Editing Tip: use more than one spell checker

Use more than one spell checker

What one spell checker might miss, another might find.

There’s a lot of free spell checkers out there you can use. Copy and paste a scene into the free versions of Grammarly or Autocrit and see if it marks anything new. They may even flag different grammar errors as well.

Using more than one spell checker will help you find some of the hidden errors. Unfortunately, using more than one still doesn’t find everything, so you do need to look over your work yourself. But using two checkers does help.

editing tip: add invented names and words to your spell check's dictionary

Add invented names and words to your spell checker’s dictionary

Most spell checkers let you add a marked word to its dictionary. This means not every instance of your fantasy/sci-fi name or magic language is flagged. This makes it easier when sorting through the list of errors.

Adding invented names and words also helps you find when you misspelled invented words.

For example, your MC is Aimetre and you’ve added it to the dictionary. Thankfully, Aimetre won’t be flagged with squiggly lines anymore, but its misspellings will be. Aimetr, Ametre, Aiemtre, etc. will all be flagged, helping you find the right misspelled names.

When you aren’t being told the correct spelling is wrong, it’ll be easier to find the incorrect spellings.

Editing Tip: use spell check AGAIN at the end

Use spell check again at the end

After you’ve combed through your entire document looking for spelling and grammar errors, use spell check again. Unfortunately, fixing some errors can cause new errors. Using spell check again at the end will help find any new errors.

Last words of caution

Remember: never use spell check by itself. You still need to proofread your work still! Spell check is only a tool–it does not replace you!

Editing Tip: Always read your work for errors; don't only rely on spell check

Additional Editing Resources

Catching & Correcting Consistent Misspellings
Commonly Confused Words
Editing Homonyms & Spelling Errors

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