Cover Your Bases

Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.

I’m in the final editing stages for my short novel that I’ve written about previously.  It’s a simple, character-driven book called Moral Compass that I plan to self-publish for Amazon Kindle (and maybe Apple, I still need to research that platform).

Of course, I’ve read through the book several times, maybe more than is necessary because I don’t have the budget for a professional editor.  As part of my final stage of revisions, I started to read through one last time to focus intently on potential spelling and grammar issues.  I’m the kid who got straight A’s on spelling quizzes back in grade school, so I tend to be a little over-confident in this area.

Webster's New World Dictiontary book cover
Spell checker circa 1978

Before I did that final reading, however, it occurred to me that I don’t make much use of the automatic spell-checker in my word processing software (I’m using OpenOffice, but all programs have some kind of spell-check function, including the WordPress application I’m using right now).  Questionable words had already been underlined in red by the software all along, making it easier for me to tune them out.  Just to be safe, I decided to run a spell-check on the full document.

What a wise idea that turned out to be.  I found several typos that I had already missed on several visual readings, including a couple of misspelled character names.  Something I found even more interesting – the spell-checker flagged some words and phrases I had taken for granted but decided to research – for example, the difference between “grey” vs. “gray,” or whether it’s “redeye” gravy or “red eye” gravy (answer: both are often used interchangeably).

Screen shot of electronic document with spell checking application
I’m keeping “über-wealthy” but I’m glad the spell-checker made me think about it

So, the moral is, make full use of the tools available to you.  I will still complete a last visual reading of my manuscript, but I’m glad I used the software as it was intended and let it help me with the work.  Conversely, don’t be a slave to that technology.  The spell-checker flagged several words that I chose not to change, usually because they are common usage that my software’s dictionary simply didn’t recognize.  For example, it may be obvious that the title of this blog post refers to the plural form of “base,” but it could easily be read as the plural of “basis.”  That’s the kind of distinction an electronic spell-checker generally can’t make.

In other words, use the computer’s brain and your own brain together, instead of relying on only one.  If you’re working on a project that others will see, whether in business or a creative work for the general public, it’s better to cover your bases than to release an error.

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