Jul 28 2010
Eye wont two torque about spilling inn yore righting.
Okay, enough. That was probably harder for me to write than it was for you to read — but the built-in spelling checker didn’t complain about a single word. What I meant was “I want to talk about spelling in your writing,” and to make the point that you can’t trust computerized spelling checkers. They’ll happily tell you that you spelled the wrong word correctly — and sometimes complain about the correct word with a valid spelling.
Nothing turns a reader or editor off faster than a lot of spelling errors in a manuscript. (Okay, writing it in purple crayon on the back of a used paper lunch bag might, even if the words are spelled correctly on that bag.) To someone who reads for a living, even common errors — confusing “its” and “it’s”, or “their”, “they’re” and “there” are frequent — make the text as hard to read as my first line up there. Or worse. Even avid readers may have trouble with spelling, as one of my sons does
So, learn how to spell. Then turn off your computer’s spelling checker and especially turn off any automatic correction software. Seriously. Once you’ve written a few tens of thousands of words with that stuff turned off, and you’ve gone through and fixed typos like “hte” for “the” yourself, your fingers will have learned better the correct sequence. And you’ll have avoided all those times where the well-meaning but incredibly stupid software has changed a word you wanted to something it thought you meant. Besides, as Larry Niven says, “save your typos”. If you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, you might want some strange words, and Niven has invented several from mistyping other words. (The samlon creature in Beowulf’s Children comes to mind.)
Now, the spelling checker is a useful tool. When I’m done my first draft, I’ll turn it on and check for misspellings and typos. It’s useful for that, although I do find that I tell it to ignore more words than I let it change. Then read through the manuscript and fix all the places where you typed “their” instead of “they’re” (which a spelling checker won’t catch), or you paused in mid-sentence and typed “the the” or some other word duplication. Or just typed the plain wrong word because you were thinking of something else, mind racing ahead in the plot, as you typed. When I’m writing an action- or dialog-heavy scene, my fingers will sometimes type the homophone (word that sounds the same) for the word I meant, even though I know better. If I don’t catch that, I look stupid.
Don’t let your writing make you look stupid.
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I’m in the middle of writing a significant addition, per editorial suggestion, to a T-space novel I thought was finished. (Although its been said that no novel – or any work of art – is ever truly finished, only abandoned.) For the next couple of weeks these entries will be on the short side. It’ll be worth it; the book is going to be way more fun to read than this blog.