I Can’t Live Without Spell Check by
(133 Stories)

Prompted By Spelling

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Spelling was a nightmare for me until spell check arrived. It’s something I rely on every day and can’t do without.  For someone who loves to write but is obviously phonetically challenged, this is the best invention since sliced bread.

For someone who loves to write, being a terrible speller used to be my Achilles heel.

My struggles with spelling didn’t really emerge until high school and college when I had to produce long compositions. Before that, spelling was one of my best subjects. I could easily memorize the weekly spelling lists and generally got 100 percent on the tests. Then, poof, those correct spellings would vanish from my mind.

Although I’m sure I made numerous spelling errors in high school, no one seemed to care that much. I would get papers or essay tests back with words circled in red, but still received good grades for the content. Also, I most likely avoided challenging words.

Being in college as an English major was another matter. Typing a paper involved tons of white out and a dictionary by my side. And still, I made plenty of spelling errors. There were words I just couldn’t spell correctly no matter how often I looked them up in my dictionary. If I wrote “capasity,” it looked fine to me.

Finally, a professor took me aside to talk about my poor spelling which marred otherwise good writing. He wasn’t about to give me an “A” for a brilliant essay that included three spelling errors. His explanation was that I must have been taught to read using a whole language approach and had no sense of phonetics. While that made sense, he had no solution to offer me other than to be more careful.

Back in those pre-computer days, there wasn’t much I could do except edit and retype my work, hoping I caught every spelling error. But as I have since learned, my brain could neither remember how to spell certain words nor recognize if a word was misspelled. You see, I have a type of dyslexia that afflicts the part of my brain responsible for correct spelling. That and my lack of phonics instruction have made me totally dependent on spell check. For a more complete description of my malady, check out Steve Hendrix’s Why Stevie Can’t Spell.

Poor spelling plagued me as an English major, high school English teacher, and graduate student. And then the most wonderful thing, the thing I can’t live without, arrived – spell check. Now the squiggly red lines alert me that I have misspelled something and with a right click of the mouse (unless my spelling is so far off that even spell check can’t save me), my spelling error vanishes. Even if my attempt at spelling a word is so wrong that spell check can’t rescue me, I have another friend I can’t live without – Google.  Generally, even the most egregious error can be corrected by googling (spell check doesn’t think that’s a verb but I will go on despite the red squiggly line) it to come up with the right word. You know, ”Did you mean…” Yes, I did. That’s the word.

Reading Hendrix’s piece on his spelling woes, and by the way he is a journalist, I learned folks like us have good company. William Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Woodrow Wilson, and John Irving were also poor spellers.

For someone who loves to write, being a terrible speller used to be my Achilles heel. Now I can use any word I like to express myself, not just the ones I’m pretty sure I know how to spell. While my issues with spelling probably expanded my knowledge of synonyms and enhanced my vocabulary, I am most grateful for this technology I can’t live without. Thank you to the geniuses who created spell check.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real and join my Facebook community.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Ah, Laurie, I totally relate! Wait until you read my story. Merriam Webster was my best friend before spell check. I’ve never been diagnosed with any form of dyslexia, but my spelling isn’t great (and I don’t do Scrabble or crossword puzzles for much the same reason…I can’t picture words in my head), so maybe I have it too. This was really eye-opening for me.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Like Betsy, Laurie, you’re another excellent example of the idea that high intelligence and good spelling don’t necessarily correlate. But being a writer must make this all the more frustrating for you.

    I am glad that you have found spell check to be such a savior. As mentioned in my story, I have a much more complicated relationship with it. But I am so happy for you, and that is the important thing.

  3. Suzy says:

    Laurie, I found your story, and the WaPo article by Steve Hendrix that you link to, fascinating! I never thought about why one person is a good speller and another is not. It makes sense that it would be a type of dyslexia, and that therefore studying lists of spelling words over and over again wouldn’t solve the problem. I wonder if the people who invented spell check – and auto correct – were motivated by their own problems with spelling.

  4. Marian says:

    Very informative, Laurie, because while I was aware of dyslexia in terms of reading, I hadn’t thought about it for spelling. Rather like loving to do art and being color blind, like my former husband. Brava for you for persevering until spell checkers became available. My high school teachers were brutal in making sure students were aware of their spelling, which turned out to be good practice when taking college courses later. Having a good vocabulary is really helpful, too, so it’s great that spelling will no longer get in the way.

  5. “Spell check” is indeed fabulous Laurie and amazing how we all came to rely on it!
    But I LOVE “predictive” – saves time and can be funny too!

  6. Such a fascinating story, Laurie…it’s really made me think more deeply about why some of us have trouble with spelling and others don’t, and why it should be equated with intelligence; very clearly, it isn’t. Two of my closest friends are highly intelligent and creative thinkers…and terrible spellers.

    Much as I love our language and enjoy the actual process of spelling (as in crossword puzzles, Scrabble, etc.) I wonder if phonetic-based technology is on the horizon…as I mentioned in my comment to Betsy, who needs silent letters? It would be a boon to those with dyslexia, ADHD, and those learning English as a second language, and context takes care of homonyms.

    I always enjoy your writing…I’m so glad you have persevered!

  7. This was a well-crafted narrative and drew this reader along.I found myself happy for you as you discovered that your spelling issues were not some kind of personal flaw but the product of the way your brain works.

    Now perhaps you and others can join me in recognizing that there is in reality no such thing as “an intelligent person.” Happily, most people have several intelligences in which they are strong. But “intelligence” is not like height or weight. There’s no way to even guess, let alone measure, who’s the heaviest or the tallest when it comes to some undefined quality called “intelligence.”

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I totally agree with you, Dale. I believe people, even those with learning disabilities, have areas in which they have more ability than those who are labeled “more intelligent.” Through all of my experience in education, I have come to appreciate divergent learners.

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