Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Spell Checkers - Good or Evil?

Anyone who follows Homer's Travels knows that my spelling and grammar generally suck. Like many out there I, at least for spelling, have become somewhat dependent on the spell checker. Like any tool the spell checker isn't 100% reliable but, after using it successfully for a long enough we sometimes become complacent and assume if a word isn't highlighted or underlined with the red squigglies then it must be correct. Here is a story that may shake you out of your complacency.

I'd been working on my first (and only) job for a couple years. This was back in th late '80s. We had just received out first Intel 286 computer. It was the only one on our work group and it was shared - I don't feel nostalgic for those days of typewriters and carbon paper. Then again, back in those days we had secretaries that did most of the typing. Anyway, I digress.

I was putting together a letter concerning a technical manual update that was being proposed. The letter would be going to our bosses in Washington D.C. I'd worked on it a while trying my best to sound official and all professional like. I even used that new fangled spell checker that came with
WordPerfect (version 1 probably). It was perfect. Yeah. Right.

Like any good bureaucracy, all official letters leaving the organization had to be reviewed and approved by at least three layers of Bosses. My immediate boss was out of town so my draft went to my Boss' Boss first. Shortly afterward I was summoned to his office.

My Boss's Boss was a nice guy. Laid back. Fair. Looked a little like
Cannon. We always marveled at how such a large man could fit in such a tiny car. He was holding my letter. He pointed at a line in my letter that he'd underlined and said:
"This is probably true but I don't think we should share it with Washington."
I took the letter and read the underlined text:
"We need tit as soon as possible."
My face probably turned several shades of red before we both started laughing. Who would have thunk that the word "tit" would be in the spell checker dictionary? Well, it was.

Here I am, twenty years later, and I've still not learned that lesson. I still depend on the spell checker (and Google when it's not in the spell checker dictionary) to correct my messes. I haven't made any embarrassing ones lately ... but give me time ... It'll happen soon or later.

5 comments:

  1. Hence why I read and re-read my posts so many darn times before I put them up.

    I remember my first 286. It was in a drafting class, running AutoCAD. We called her "Big Bertha". As for WordPerfect, I miss old 4.2 every time Word frustrates the heck outta me...

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  2. GH: WordPerfect was pretty easy to use compared to Word.

    Godefroy: Thank you! I'm here all night.

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  3. I'm so glad I'm not the only one!! I was typing escrow instructions about the watering system on a farm in Lincoln. I can't remember the exact sentence, however, it came out something like: Buyer herein acknowledges that the irrection system will be conveyed in "as is" condition.

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