Mistakes SpellCheckers Try to Trick You Into

First let me start by saying I love my computer and all the writing software on it.  I kind of freak out when the internet goes down, or worse yet, the PC or laptop have to go into the shop.

But while modern technology makes an author’s life so much easier than writing longhand by  the fireplace, there are a few bugs that come with it.  The little red and green squiggly lines on Word that show me misspellings or grammatical goofs are a great help  . . . most of the time.  I’d never consider NOT using spell and grammar check functions on Scrivener or Word, but I’d also never change things per their suggestions without first looking at them very closely.   And Beware of AutoCorrect!   Don’t even get me started on that.


The following are pretty common errors caused by Spelling and Grammar Checker Foul-ups, or SGCFU as I’ll call them.  These suggestions pop up when I’m writing, and sadly, I often see these in books that haven’t been properly edited before publication.  Remember that the functions are meant as suggested corrections, and are off-base about 25% of the time.

1)  Dialogue tags as separate sentences
This one really bugs me when I pay for a book and see crap like this:
“Is the car here yet?”  She asked.  or “Oh no!  Look out!” He yelled.
For some reason, some spell/grammar checks try to get you to capitalize whatever comes after quote marks preceded by anything other than a comma.  I do not know why.  This causes confusion for new writers and students working on reports who think it must be right since the computer said so.
Remember:  ‘He said’ is NOT a separate sentence.  Would you go up to somebody and say, “She asked.”?  I think not.

2)  Weird misuse of semicolons
Okay, semicolons cause enough confusion as it is, and I’m guessing they are probably the most often misused form of punctuation.  Some genius out there really needs to find a way to get the Checker thingies to quit making it worse.  All writers should really learn the rules for using them correctly, along with colons, dashes, etc, and maybe keep a little reference sheet close at hand for double-checking.  Here are two examples with the suggested WRONG ‘corrections’:
Minutes after the 911 call went out; the sheriff arrived to take him to the county jail.  WRONG!  Should obviously be a comma.
Anyway; I hope I  don’t act like a fool. WRONG AGAIN!  Both of these examples should stay as originally written with commas instead of these semicolons.

3)  Word Use ‘Corrections’ that me you say WTH
To find these examples, I pulled up a polished manuscript and these are the stupid suggestions (in parentheses) that appeared when I right-clicked the green squiggles:
And the pleasure is all mine (mines).
Your psychotic girlfriend just attacked me, that’s  (that am) what happened.  See what I mean?!  ‘That am what happened.’  Really?  I kid you not, that was one of the biggest  SGCFU ever.

Bottom line, always carefully consider the ‘corrections’ before you change anything.

What other problems do SGCFU give you?

4 comments on “Mistakes SpellCheckers Try to Trick You Into

  1. I see a lot of capitalization after quotation marks in manuscripts I critique for people~ you just brought to my attention that it might simply be because of their spell check! Very informative post!

  2. Maggie says:

    All the more reason to rely on real, live editors instead of computerized grammar checkers! 🙂

  3. Great little article. The grammar checker is ever worse. I totally disregard that one.

  4. Pete Denton says:

    Spell check is a handy tool, but you’re right that it should be scrutinised rather than be relied upon all the time. The Word grammar checker is really annoying. I much prefer Scrivener who leaves me alone 🙂

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