Autocorrect Spells Trouble


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Having recently traversed the continent of South America (you need to know this for context, it's not just a shameful gloat) I found myself writing e-mails on computers that weren't set to English. Not a huge problem.

Obviously I speak English, so writing an e-mail without the assistance of an English-speaking computer shouldn't be an insurmountable challenge - or at least one would hope.

But as I settled into the task at hand each word I typed, most of which for the record was actually spelt correctly, a sea of autocorrect 'red mist' underlined everything I wrote - the spell checker, obviously set to Spanish, wasn't recognising what I was writing. In that moment I felt a cold pang of vulnerability and only then, with my trusted English autocorrect having deserted me (as an aside - desert and dessert are amongst the trickiest offenders) did I realise that I am somewhat reliant on having a machine check my spelling. So if I wanted to have a perfectly correct e-mail to send to my loved ones, it was down to me and me alone.*

The human race's reliance on technology is nothing new. I know this. Calculators are used for basic sums. Sat Navs replace the need for any sort of map reading ability and of course these concepts serve to make our lives easier but they're making us lazy and they're making us forget that we could actually perform these simple tasks without the assistance of machines. But then why would we want to when the technology is there to do the thinking for us?

Perhaps I'm being harsh. Maybe it's just me that allows my typing to be ruled by a spell checker - which I sincerely hope isn't the case otherwise this is going to quickly become a confession to my boss that I can't spell! Thankfully I don't think I'm alone. In fact I know I'm not because there are occasions when autocorrect doesn't even give you the choice. Take the iPhone for example. As you type, it skips ahead of you, guessing and then 'helpfully' suggesting words you might be trying to muster before you've finished.

It's becoming a cocky know-it-all! It's like when you search on Google and it starts patronising you with 'Did you mean?' when it doesn't recognise something. No. Just stop interfering and search for what I asked for cheers Google. I digress.

I don't know if there's a lesson for us here. Should we all switch off the spell checker and see how far we get before we fail? Might be worth a try but it's certainly not conducive to efficient working having to look up from your desk and sheepishly ask a colleague for help on how to spell such tricky words as necessary (just remember 'coffee and two sugars' for that one and you'll be fine).

The truth is, without being a hypocrite I can't implore anyone to abandon the technology that does actually make life a bit easier but perhaps we should all have a little more confidence in our selves. If you see a red line under a word you swore was written correctly, let your finger hover for a brief moment on your mouse's right click button to see which alternatives spell check has suggested. Ignore the impulse and try typing the word again!

Incidentally I wrote this with autocorrect switched on. Old habits die hard!

Told you I'm a hypocrite.

* I probably could have easily changed the autocorrect to English but I don't know how, nor do I know how to ask in Spanish for someone else to do that.


Written by

Ruth Thomas
Account Director, Truth PR.