Stand-up comedian Orny Adams has a great bit about how much he hates the auto-correct feature on his smartphone’s texting app. “My phone tries to guess what I’m saying,” he complains. “So I’ll be late for a meeting and I’ll text, ‘Be there in 10 mimosas.’”
Then, looking at his phone screen and realizing what he’s just sent, Adams says, “Oh great. Looks like I’m not getting that job.”
As much as we wish the new tools of technology could replace it, there’s still no getting around old-fashioned human proofreading. Don’t be fooled into leaving out that final step. I know it’s tempting — especially now that your gadgets have built-in tools that seem to perform the editing function for you, and in some cases are even able to disguise writing altogether so it feels like you’re doing something else.
My dad started using the voice-to-text feature on his iPhone to send me messages. “It’s amazing,” he told me. “I can send you a text and I don’t have to type a word.”
“Yes,” I responded. “You can send me texts like, ‘Just warned you know Hannibal pancake starts 5 years afternoon hop you theirs.’” It’s like magic, isn’t it?
The spell-check, auto-correct and voice-recognition programs on your phone, email, word processor and other tools can be useful — but they’re not replacements for a thorough review of your work before you send it out.
Remember, spell check typically won’t catch “form” if you meant “from,” “they” when you thought you wrote “the,” or a thousand similar mistakes that you’ve technically spelled correctly — and that you can usually catch yourself if you proof your work (or have a trusted friend or colleague do so).
Nor will your standard auto-correct programs mind their own damn business if you write “inclucing” when you meant “including,” but they assumed you were trying to type “inducing.”
So yes, rely on those red squiggly marks to help you catch “mornnig” and “thouhtful.” And speak into your phone if you’d prefer not to type, and tell your son about meeting Hannibal for pancakes 5 years from this afternoon. That’s fine for a first draft.
But when you’re done composing your message — and after you’ve accepted or rejected your program’s spell-check and auto-correct suggestions — it’s time to proofread.