Kaleb's Blog Thoughts & Mutterings of a Pantaphobiac

12Sep/080

Autocorrect is Evil

Several weeks ago I was informed by my boss that I had vacation hours I hadn't used yet. This was news to me, as I didn't think I would be getting any vacation hours until January, but I wasn't about to argue with him about it. I've been with the company long enough that I should have the vacation anyway, and I would have had I not taken a short four month break to work somewhere else. My boss informed me that I couldn't take the vacation over a holiday week (Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), and so I figured I might as well turn it in and take a few days off from work.

And thus it is that I've had the last three days off, with very little that I needed to do. I got caught up on homework the first day, and then set my mind to a project I've been meaning to tackle for a while but haven't had the time to really accomplish: editing.

When writing, I normally go back and edit as I finish each part before posting it, and in the case of my stories, I send the completed sections to a beta who then proofs it for content and quality. This serves to catch most of the mistakes, but even with these precautions I don't always catch all of my mistakes. Some still manage to slip through the cracks.

So over the past few days I have gone back to my story, Entity, reading it from start to finish, keeping my eye out for plot holes, sections that could use improvement, spelling errors, grammatical errors, and the like. I am really proud of Entity. I have spent a lot of hours over the past two years writing it, and I wanted to polish it up before I publish the last chapter.

My hard work has paid off. I have found a few small mistakes that needed correcting, but for the most part, chapter after chapter has passed by and I've found myself marveling at the quality of my work. Everything is as I intended it to be, and that makes me happy.

There is one mistake, however, that kept showing its ugly head as I read, over and over, and the thing is, the mistake wasn't even my fault. No, it was the fault of the program I used to type the story in, a so-called "feature" that was supposed to be helpful. Autocorrect.

For those of you not familiar with the feature, Microsoft Word and other word processing programs have a built in spell checker that checks words as you type them. Common misspellings of words are replaced with the correct spellings of the word automatically. And this is a helpful feature...if it worked correctly. But it doesn't. The list of commonly misspelled words isn't a common list at all. Sometimes it guesses incorrectly, and that simply isn't acceptable.

I'll give you a few examples. One of the characters in the story is named Loni. Not a common name, I'll give you that, so I can understand why it would be flagged as a misspelling. But Word's Autocorrect corrects "Loni" to "Loin"...which is a pretty embarrassing substitution. And it continues to Autocorrect the name even after it has been added to the dictionary. In another case, I typed the word "word", except that I left off the "w" as I was typing it, and the Autocorrect corrected the misspelling to "rod". What bugs me about the change is that I would have caught the misspelling "ord" and corrected it to "word" easily...a simple spellcheck would have picked up the misspelling. But because the misspelling was corrected to a different word, the spellcheck doesn't pick up on it. "Rod" isn't spelled incorrectly.

And that, my friends, is the primary flaw of any Autocorrect system. What is meant as a helpful feature actually turns out to be an inconvenience. Autocorrect is evil. And in all programs that allow me, I will be turning it off in the future. You should too.

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