The Grumpy Giraffe

Critiques on social and education issues

The Inconvenience of Convenience

It’s Monday, and the first day back at school. Both teachers and students are most likely exhausted from the day, and may want to go onto 9gag, Damnlol, and other humour sites. Recently, the Autocorrect phenomenon has been taking the world by storm, transcending age barriers. More can be seen here.

Aside from Autocorrect abominations, Spell Check (SC) also proves to be quite a hassle for teachers and students everywhere. For example, Microsoft Word suggests my last name should be “Fungi”.

Teachers and students alike are both suffering from SC.

SC is still a faulty system that may overreact in unnecessary situations, and sometimes ignores others altogether, especially for homonyms (ex. “You should fulfill your roll in the group”). After having typed the aforementioned sentence in MS Word, it has not detected any error. However, WordPress’s SC did detect it, and suggested “role”, which was the correct word.

SC encourages us to be lazy with our words. “Spell check will get it”, but sometimes it may not. It’s frightening when a seventh grader does not know how to spell “frightening”, or when a high school graduate does not know the difference between “there”, “their”, and “they’re”. Common homonyms go amiss when we use SC.

I don’t want to harp on the evils of technology, but when students rely on SC as a life saviour instead of a safety net, as it was originally designed to be, there’s a problem:

Students aren’t thinking.

Being a good writer isn’t only about the content. Coherence, grammar, conventions, and use of space are merely some of the aspects a writer needs to think about before publishing a piece, whether online or in print. The purpose of proofreading is not only so that your piece may “look pretty”, but so that it makes it easier on the reader to savour your piece for what it is worth, not for the format. When a reader is too occupied trying to fight through the thorny formatting, how can he or she enjoy your piece?

Communication is not solely the message, but also the medium.

When students learn how to write words on their own without always relying on training wheels, they will learn that writing can come smoothly and still retain its creativeness without destroying the conventions.

I am not asking for a ban on Spell Check. It is a wonderful tool to check quickly what you’ve written, especially when you’re in a rush. However, like all technology, it is a human product, and it is designed by humans, so there will definitely be mistakes.

Autocorrect, however… that is a different cast cash case altogether.


12 comments on “The Inconvenience of Convenience

  1. Bree Prebish
    February 5, 2013

    Some really prize blog posts on this website , bookmarked .

  2. Ewa Drozd
    February 2, 2013

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

  3. here's the site
    January 30, 2013

    This site has got some very helpful stuff on it! Thank you for helping me.

  4. Adrian Balston
    January 17, 2013

    Nice post. When I was at school (in the UK in the 1980s) it was the current thinking that teaching grammar, sentence structure, and so on was too restrictive on the student. I thus left school not really knowing how to write. Well, I knew how to write, but only through instinct; I had no framework for testing what I wrote. I have since taught myself the technical aspects of writing. Your point about communication being ‘not solely the message, but also the medium’ is exactly right, and SC erodes our understanding of how words and language works, just like the bad teaching practices I experienced at school. We could end up with a generation that needs to reteach itself what SC has denied them. My own solution is to turn off SC, or, when I do use it, to check its suggestions against my own intentions instead of just blindly accepting its revisions. I also turn off predictive text on my devices.

    • The Grumpy Giraffe
      January 17, 2013

      Thanks! I don’t have predictive text mainly because it never seems to guess correctly what I want to say. I went through ESL for a couple of months in Grade 1, and my day school teachers were lenient on grammar as well. However, I was enrolled (against my will) to Saturday English classes à grâce de mes parents, and their strict grip on grammar helped me understand the serious consequences of not having good grammar.

  5. shaiwalbhattacharya
    January 16, 2013

    Very True..not only MS Word/Spell check but the use of zany SMS language is also affecting the quality of English among students.!

  6. Take It from Meg
    January 15, 2013

    You have spoken my mind! I study online and am appalled at the lack of grammar, punctuation, Sense! in some of these students’ discussion board posts. Is it too much to ask college students to sound smart? I have one instructor who specifically mentions that weekly assignments need not be written accurately.

    • The Grumpy Giraffe
      January 15, 2013

      I had an English professor who stated that essays do not need to be written grammatically. I was so shocked my jaw fell to the ground.

      • Take It from Meg
        January 15, 2013

        It’s a wonder higher education costs so much :/

  7. dogbronte
    January 15, 2013

    SC is very frustrating when you’re British. Damn Yanks don’t know how to spell.

  8. Jason Preater
    January 11, 2013

    I noticed you are using Microsoft World- did that come through the SC?

    • The Grumpy Giraffe
      January 11, 2013

      Haha that actually did. It escaped WP’s and MS Word’s SC. Thanks for pointing it out!

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