Pitfalls for Writers 3

Pitfalls for Writers, an occasional series; part 3) Spellcheck and Distractions



There are particular problems with the English language, when it comes to muddling words up, since we seem to be blessed (or otherwise) with a large number of groups of similar words. Within each group, they’re pronounced the same, although their meaning and spelling are different.

Did you see what I did there?

You might alter something, but then leave it on an altar.

Then there are, for example, groyne and groin; although in the US, groyne is spelled groin. Do you know which language your spellcheck uses? The default on my computer is US English, so I had to manually alter it to UK English, since I live in UK.

(This is referring to groyne / groin as in a breakwater, not an anatomical term)

Of course, if I was writing a piece to be published in the US, I would then need to alter many of the spellings to US usage.

Are you still with me?

Naturally, as writers, we should all understand the difference between ‘they’re, their and there’, but when using spellcheck it is perhaps easy, or perhaps lazy, to get them muddled up.

There. That’s what I did.

There is no substitute for a dictionary and a good knowledge of grammar.



Oh, I’m so easily distracted. When I am spending a day writing, be it on a novel or short story or on a piece for my blog, I turn to the internet to look something up and before I know it, I’m reading something else, which then encourages me to follow a thread somewhere to something I spotted that looks awfully interesting and then…

Obviously, if there is cricket going on, then that is understandable. Everybody needs to keep up with the score, don’t they? But it is just as likely to be an unrelated distraction.

I do understand the importance of a timetable, and I admit that I am hopeless at following my own advice, here. Occasionally I will scrawl down a note in my diary for the day that reads something along the lines of ‘Breakfast, then 9 am writing. 12 noon emails and lunch. 1 pm – 4 pm writing.’

When I do manage to have a working day that is disciplined, I invariably find that I get a lot more done. And one of the most important things, for me, is not to look at emails before lunchtime. As soon as I do, I’m no longer thinking about writing, but answering these various emails, and whatever it is they’re about.

Ooh, hang on, I need to go and check the cricket. No, no, it’s important. I’ll be back in a moment…

20 thoughts on “Pitfalls for Writers 3

  1. Spellcheckers are wonderful things, Mick, especially if you think you know how to spell. I invariably add too many letters to a word and then Word chides me. But, as you point out, Spellcheckers can be misleading. Mine admonished me today for spelling ‘jeweled’ as ‘jewelled’, so I obligingly contracted it. But both variants are acceptable. Programs also cannot allow for context. For example, the term ‘spelt’ is an archaic variant of ‘spelled’ and grudgingly allowed in the UK but in America spelt means wheat. And as for checking our grammar! That last sentence would be totally inadmissible…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. I frequently find that Spellcheck ticks me off for something and I narrow my eyes, mutter angrily at it, and then reach for the dictionary to find that, sure enough, it is a word or a variation of a word that is perfectly good, and I then click ‘add to dictionary’ on the computer.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m afraid to say I have exactly the same problem with spellcheckers. My fingers have a tendency to ignore my brain and type things like you’re when I mean your, but of course the spellcheck just ignores such slips.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi, Mick. When ideas are flowing, and I’m writing quickly, I tend to make a few mistakes that are often corrected by Spellcheck, but I often need to ‘Add to dictionary’ too, especially for names. My spellcheck is US English too, and although I’ve reset it at UK English many times, it stubbornly refuses to stay there! Most frustrating. As for grammar, I now use something called ‘Grammarly’ which you can find if you Google it. It’s very useful both in correcting spellings and grammar (as in punctuation) but also in sentence structure. It’s quite interesting to use.

    I always used to use a Dictionary and the Thesaurus in book form but found I can get quite good guidance on the web, i.e. Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus. I have to say the latter of the two lacks the choice that Roget’s gives you.

    on the hole: i Tend too get My grammer coreckt most of the thyme 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ellie, I meant to look at Grammarly ages ago, and forgot all about it. I’ll have no excuse not to, now.
      And the Oxford dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus are my choice for words.
      If you’re using Word, you should be able to set the default language by going to the ‘review’ frame, then left clicking on the language at the bottom, changing to English (UK), then clicking ‘set as default’. You’ve probably tried that, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s particularly difficult to keep the emails in their place after you’ve been away from the internet for a couple of days. I’ve just returned from sending my daughter off to deepest Australia and find I’ve a couple of day’s social media to catch up on. I should really be working on the current novel, but those emails just nag and nag until they’re dealt with!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean, Stuart. And in some ways it feels even worse if I’ve been strong-willed and got on with the writing and hardly touched the emails for a while. They’ve all piled up, and it seems to be a consequence of my being organised and disciplined. Seems I can’t win either way!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The danger is, of course, that you can spend your life ‘clearing the desk’ and never actually get anything worthwhile off the ground. I discovered that leaving the internet activity to the end of the day, after I’ve done some real writing, tends to make me much more ruthless in answering emails and comments. So, why didn’t I do this today? Well, because I was searching for a message from my daughter to let me know she was safe!
        Tomorrow, however…

        Liked by 1 person

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