Picture the scene:  Armed with your ‘special occasion’ stationery and favourite writing paper, you’re approaching the end of another arduous English essay, embellishing it with your finest joined up writing – that you spent 6 years learning in primary school – and festooning it with the type of adjectives one could only dream of, when suddenly the unthinkable happens… A spelling mistake… immediately you start to panic.  Your inhibitions are lowered; you start to feel dizzy. What do you do? You couldn’t possibly bear crossing it out, your teachers would never take you seriously again!  

Fortunately, if you’re partial to writing on a computer then you won’t run into this problem very often. And of course that’s one of the unequivocal benefits of using a spell checker – you simply can’t go wrong.

However, our beloved spell checkers can sometimes become more of a hindrance than a help.

Usually, when I’m writing, I’ll just splutter out some sort of halfwit attempt at what I’m trying to say and then leave it to the computer to finish it off. And, since the machine is intellectually superior to your unassuming writer, it always does – and I end up producing work that I don’t feel embarrassed to put my name to. So Far so good, right? But you see the biggest advantage of spell checkers?  The very essence of the software, is also it’s biggest downfall – they encourage us to be ignorant. We start to become contemptuous of spelling and grammar, taking it for granted, as we find ourselves becoming ever more reliant on the checkers, and then when someone slides a plain piece of paper in front of us and tells us to write – we simply can’t cope.  Spell checkers are undermining our literacy.

The next issue will almost certainly blow your fuse, especially if you’re British. Yes, American spellings – one of my pet hates when it comes to writing.  I mean how hard can it be for a computer to work out the correct spelling of ‘Colour’? Indeed it is probable that British spellings like ‘Colour’ will die out completely within a few generations as ‘Americanisation’ continues to dissipate into our way of life and our language – much to the dismay of any patriotic, language-loving Tommy. And yes, I know it can be switched around to British Spellings on certain applications. However I’ve only recently found out how to do this, and I’m willing to bet there are many others oblivious to the choice as well.

It would be naive of anyone to think that just because we have spell checkers, the need to think about spelling for ourselves has disappeared. From greetings cards to coursework, and with schools now putting more emphasis than ever on spelling, punctuation and grammar, it seems the old fashioned ways will long be the best ways.

Better pull out your dictionaries then.