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Spell check--an elementary tool but not one for serious scholarship

Updated on June 5, 2012

Eusebius of Cesaraea

Eusebius of Cesaraea, Arian bishop who compiled first 50 bibles in fourth century CE
Eusebius of Cesaraea, Arian bishop who compiled first 50 bibles in fourth century CE | Source

Codex Vaticanus

One of two remaining first bibles created in the fourth century CE by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Cesaraea on order of Emperor Constantine I
One of two remaining first bibles created in the fourth century CE by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Cesaraea on order of Emperor Constantine I | Source

Lisa Koski, on a Hub, asked about the value of Spell Check (a trademarked word). Her question reads:

Seeing made up words and misspellings all over HubPages made me wonder how dependent most people are on spell check. I do just fine checking my own work and using a dictionary (although I know I'm not perfect). I also know there are those who type their work into Word before posting them in a Hub, which is a great idea.

I responded:

Spell check, on nearly all computers and software that I am familiar with, checks spelling to determine if the letters create a word. Spell check, especially with Microsoft and similar systems does not do a grammar check unless specifically initiated. For example, on spell check I can type the word "from" while the text of my essay would use the word "form". Both are correct by spell check standards.

While I write and have spell check on most of my software, since I do translations from Russian, Arabic, Greek, Swedish, German, French and other languages, the Spell check equipment that is employed on my computer will not catch all words (especially those in Arabic, Ukranian, or ther non-Roman characters. It is necessary, therefore, to recheck myself (the mark of any scholar)--but even typographical errors will appear.

Typographical errors, called "typos", are common when the author reviews repeatedly the same word. At the same time, editors, also being human, will mistake a comma for a semicolon, or one word for its homophone, and either let it pass, or demand the article be rewritten, as is the case with Yahoo! Contributors--that has rejected several of my articles until I separate thoughts into distinct and two-line paragraphs.

This is acceptable when the two sentences have cohesion, but is difficult when defining the true interpretation or translation of a word, phrase, or content as with the translation of cuneiforms or hieroglyph. It is essential to read, review, edit, and then repeat the process--but this is not a guarantee for success.

There will always be errors in all books, even holy books (such as the Bible) where Justin Martyr creates the word "cross" (from crux), while the Greek uses the word for pillar or column (στήλη). This requires an appreciation and knowledge not only of pilology, linguistics, translation but also interpretation, as there was no official Bible before the Emperor Constantine I required the Arian Bishop Eusbeius of Cesaraea to create fifity bible for the churches in the east at the end of the fourth century.

Justin Marty fashioned his fable based upon his desire to incorporate the Tau of ancient Egypt since a majority of chrestianos were living in Alexandria and were in conflict with christianos. There is a world of difference between chrestianos and christianos that was clear to anyone living in the first five centuries of the Current Era (CE). Because of this difference, wars, murders, assassinations, and quarrels over what were gospels and what were apocrypha brought out the worst in both groups. Spell check does not note the differences--unless each word is included manually in the dictionary of Spell check.

To attempt to use a spell checker to find out the correct spelling requires, therefore, a greater education than any machine offers. Few people, including computer programmers and computer engineers have that luxury of time.

I am in favor of using a spell checker in the introductory stage of any writing. However, I do not find a spell checker to be infallible anymore than any mortal is infallible. It is but a tool to use to determine direction, focus, and other grammatical rites of passage. Ms. Koski's questions is excellent and will lead to a serious debate, I hope. Thank you for the question.

Christianos and Chrestianos in the ancient world of words

The censorship of a word in the fifth century: changing chrestianos into christianos in original documents by religious partisans.
The censorship of a word in the fifth century: changing chrestianos into christianos in original documents by religious partisans. | Source

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    • profile image

      Nadia Cabezas 

      6 years ago

      This is an interesting article. Sometimes I use the Spell Checking of Microsoft Word, but as it says nothing is perfect, so we must check by ourselves too. There will always be mistakes on articles and essays. I admit that I do not review carefully all my homeworks. I started to do it last year, but I commit mistakes yet, I am not perfect, that is because I am a human and I learn all the time.

      I agree with Sandra Domen, you take your time to review all the papers we write and explain us how and what word we must use instead those. Thank you! We appreciate that.

    • profile image

      José Carlos Yoctun Cabrera 

      6 years ago

      I agree when you say that there will always be errors in all books, even holy books (such as the Bible) where Justin Martyr creates the word "cross" (from crux), while the Greek uses the word for pillar or column (?????). I would like to add that there are similar mistakes related for example with the word soul, which is believed to be something inside us but you may remember that the Bible was originally written mainly in Hebrew and Greek. When writing about the soul, the Bible writers used the Hebrew word ne?phesh or the Greek word psy·khe?. These two words occur well over 800 times in the Scriptures. When you examine the way “soul” or “souls” is used in the Bible, it becomes evident that this word basically refers to (1) people, (2) animals, or (3) the life that a person or an animal enjoys not something inside us.

    • profile image

      Sandra Domen 

      6 years ago

      Honestly I did not know anything about the spell checking until now that I have read this article. I am one of your Peruvian students, and I have not used that tool when I write my essays. I am not a perfect person, above all when I write something in English language which is not my mother tongue, but just because I am not perfect, I try to learn from my mistakes through your corrections and that is something I value. The fact that you take your time to read all essays, says a lot about you as a professor.

      I have read little about spell ckecking, but I dare say that every aid is welcome, long as we are aware of the benefits and harms that can cause this kind of help.

    • profile image

      Woody 

      6 years ago

      Wayne

      Those were probably East Texas t-shirts.

    • Wayne Tilden profile image

      Wayne Tilden 

      6 years ago from Roseville, California

      Woody,

      You're right about phonics. I recently saw two t-shirts: "PHONIX WERKED FOUR ME!" and "IF PHONICS IS SO GOOD, WHY IS IT SO HARD TO SPELL?"

      Regional differences, and your "laugh for the day".

    • profile image

      Woody 

      6 years ago

      I have to admit I use the spell check features more often than I should since I was always about the first to sit down in the class spelling bee in school. BUT, I also know these features are full of errors. For that reason there are two dictionaries, a spelling guide, a thesaurus and a grammer guide on my desk! In my defense I am a product of Texas schools and was never taught phonetics. We memorized how to spell the words.

    • Dr. Arthur Ide profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr. Arthur Ide 

      6 years ago from Iowa

      Well written, and I do agree. Kindly read my longer comment below. Thank you for your insight and generosity in sahring your thoughts.

    • Dr. Arthur Ide profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr. Arthur Ide 

      6 years ago from Iowa

      I applaud Wayne Tilman's comments, and only have a note to add: concerning capitalizing a word. In English we only capitalize proper nouns, and in the ancient world of Eusebius (fourth century CE), the word bible was lower case as it translates as book (??????, the plural is ?????? that means a collection of writings, such as the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Thomas, Philip, and other "gospel" (literally "good news" ????? ????????, rather than the modern ????????? ) as there were no books in the traditional understanding, but scrolls. I use bible since I translate according to the understanding and interpretation of the day that I discuss. The problem with Spell Check(ers) is that none come with the ability to define nuances in a manner quite similar to translating 17th century German into 21st century German (or Russian, Ukranian, and so forth).

      My students (who are in Perú), sadly, use Spell Check too frequently, and I read some truly funny translations and some that leave me in shock when they commonly plagiarize Wikipedia (to find original research (investigación: investigation) is rare and teachers (undertrained, poorly educated, and with few having more than a complimentary bachelor degree with more time spent studying pedagogy than becoming subject-matter experts) in Perú have little interest in determining authenticity or reality (that is why, in 2007, Minister of Education Antonio Chang tested more than 180,000 teachers throughout the nation and only 151 marginally passed). I want my students to understand the language and use it correctly.

      Unlike all teachers with whom I am personally familiar or converse with, I read each word, check for authentic punctuation, and grade based on rules of grammar. My students deserve to know why they scored the numeric I placed on their compositions. Spell Check will not do that.

    • Wayne Tilden profile image

      Wayne Tilden 

      6 years ago from Roseville, California

      Dr. Ide,

      Not really your mistake since it was a part of a quote. I refer to the statement written on Wikipedia; "Eusebius of Cesaraea, Arian bishop who compiled first 50 bibles [sic. should be Bibles]in fourth century CE.".

      Source: Wikipedia

      And also in the following published with the image of a page from the "Codex Vaticanus"; "One of two remaining first bibles [sic. should be Bibles]created in the fourth century CE by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Cesaraea on order of Emperor Constantine."

      We can't always, for one reason or another change the spelling in a quotation, such as in above.

      Therefore, if you could see the "little squiggly red lines in the quotes, above, you would see that uncommon words are still "flagged" by Spell Check. To wit; 'Eusebius,' 'Cesaraea,' 'Arian,'Vaticanus,and, of course, 'Ide'

      No such words? I leave that to you.

      Write On!

    • profile image

      Magdalena Usquiano 

      6 years ago

      I agree with Ms. Koski about the importance of a good dictionary as a tool to be used when we are writing; but spell checkers are useful too, if they are directed by a trained and responsible person. It is important to remember that machines does not think so they can not be perfect. We are not perfect either, but the difference is that we are intelligent enough to create our own works for avoiding plagiarism and mispelling. It is necessary, as Ms. Koski proposes, to check our work through reading carefully.

    • profile image

      jrogers1946 

      6 years ago

      Spell Check is like bad breath, its better than none at all.

    • profile image

      Silvia Velezmoro 

      6 years ago

      I think spell checker could be an interesting tool just for reference, but computer programmes won't never replace human beings. And we have to investigate and research about words to speaak formal English.

    • Bob Ferreira profile image

      Bob Ferreira 

      6 years ago

      Good points made in this hub - a spell checker on a computer is only as infallible as the people who programmed it in the first place. I feel spell check should be used as a prompt only, and works better with common sense.

      Voted up!

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