Sunday, October 14, 2012

Auto-Correct and Spell Check

Smart phones are awesome. How did we ever survive without all the information they provide at our fingertips? They even correct our spelling for us because, of course, our smart phones know what we want to type even better than we do. At least they think they do--because they’re so smart. A few days ago, I texted my wife and made a smart-alecky comment, followed by the all-important initials jk because, well, I was just kidding. My auto-correct apparently thought I was much more serious than I did, so it auto-corrected to JFK—capital letters and everything. Now, why would I bring John F. Kennedy up? And why would my smart phone think I was talking about him? Was he a smart aleck? Have I ever brought him up before? A friend mentioned the other day that she used the word blah in a text because she was “having a bad day.” It was auto-corrected to Budapest. I got a good laugh out of that, but it was nothing compared to what happened last night. After the Tigers/Yankees playoff baseball game, I texted to a friend that Jeter (Yankee shortstop, Derek Jeter) broke his ankle. Jeter was auto-corrected to heterosexual. I kid you not. My smartphone thought I wanted to say that “heterosexual broke his ankle.” I seriously wasn’t thinking about his sexual preferences; I was thinking about a bone near his foot.

All the above was just introduction, though, to what I really have on my mind about spelling. There are two words that are so commonly misspelled, that, as the wielder of the red pen, I feel it is my duty to straighten things out.

1st word:  a lot—a lot is two words. I find it interesting that an older version of my Word program ALWAYS underlined alot, indicating it was spelled wrong, but the correction option was allot instead of a lot. My newer version actually fixes the word now and puts the space that belongs. There is no argument about a lot being two words. It just is.

2nd word: all right—all right is always two words too. But unlike alot, alright is NOT corrected by the Word program, nor is it underlined as an incorrect spelling. Hmmm. Interestingly, the Microsoft Word spellchecker will not highlight alright as an error, but it will also not suggest alright if you spell it incorrectly (for instance, alrite).  Microsoft seems to be sitting on the fence with regard to alright being accepted as standard. I UNDERSTAND it when people say that our language is changing, but what I don’t understand is WHY. Is it because of laziness? Lack of education? I read somewhere that all right is the most commonly misspelled word in the English language (not by number of misspellings but by the consistency of misspellings). 

I’m going to just use some common sense here. I’ve looked at source after source that says that alright is the misspelling of all right. They say that alright is “informal” and that it is “gaining a shadowy acceptance in British English” or “alright is a nonstandard variant of all right.  Even though alright is becoming more acceptable, it is best avoided” or “generally, most editors and teachers don’t think alright is all right” or “alright continues to be looked on as illiterate and unacceptable and consequently it ought never to appear in serious writing” or “alright’s interdiction is as pure an example as possible of a rule without a reason” or “still, even though alright is closing ground on all right, the latter is never wrong and the former is still considered problematic by some” or  all right  should always be used in more formal, edited writing” or (finally) “if you cannot avoid all right or alright, then opt for all right. Using alright, especially in formal writing, runs a higher risk that your readers will view it as an error. It is far more difficult to justify alright than all right.” One source simply suggested avoiding the word (or words) altogether.

Here’s my point since I’m supposed to make one. When I see the words “problematic…non-standard…informal…illiterate…unacceptable…best-avoided…a rule without a reason…and hard to justify,” I see a problem. And when I see that in “serious writing” and “edited writing” the expectation is to use all right, and that all right is “never wrong,” I tend to become all logical and determine that I will always use all right. 

All right? I’m not JFKing. I’m not having a Budapest day. I’m serious. As serious as a Derek heterosexual broken ankle.


  1. love this i was told that i can not put can't down because it not the right way to right it, this was at a training course on how to write the words right

  2. Use cannot when you are using formal writing, like a training course. In informal writing, it's okay, and of course it's okay when writing dialogue because that's how people talk. A lot of instructors will tell you to not use contractions in formal writing.

  3. I feel your pain. Auto-correct constantly makes me look illiterate!

  4. I don't text a lot, so when I do my dorky thumbs and/or my plodding perusal of the keys often results in some hilarious auto-corrects. I should keep track so that I can have a version two of this blog. How about together we declare that auto-correct is the one that's illiterate.

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