We've all made this mistake at some time in our writing lives. We take the time to write something well - whether it's an email to the boss, a cover letter, a term paper or a PowerPoint presentation - and fail to notice a common spelling mistake until too late. After all that hard work, to leave such a glaring mistake in the document is indeed painful.
What stings the most is the inescapable fact that the spelling mistake was careless and easily avoidable, especially in this day and age. You may find it unfair that such a mistake, if made frequently enough, could prevent you from getting that job or promotion you've wanted. When you are being judged by your written word, proper spelling is crucial. So here are some steps you can take to avoid common spelling mistakes the next time you write something, be it a casual email or formal document.
- Use spell-checking features on the computer. Always spell-check your documents! If writing your documents in a computer program like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, make use of the spell-check feature located in the menu bar (usually under a header like Tools). If there is no spell-check feature in the program, then open a program with the spell-check feature and paste your text in there to check it for common spelling mistakes.
- Get some fresh eyes to read over it. Have a trusted friend or family member read through what you've written, because frequently the same pair of eyes can overlook an obvious typo simply due to overexposure to the piece.
Alternately, if no one is available to offer proofreading, take a break from the writing and come back to it later when you are fresher. By taking a break, you can approach your words with a keener eye for spelling mistakes. You may find that more corrections need to be made than just spelling.
- Spell-check is not infallible. Even with spell-checking tools on your computer, the fact is that you can still make common spelling mistakes. You may be tempted to think, because no squiggly lines appear under any words, that your document is free of spelling mistakes. Unfortunately, this is an unsound assumption. I can write, "I went too the park with Bob, Sue an there dog," without any squiggly lines appearing under my text in Microsoft Word, even though I made three common spelling mistakes. Spell-checkers don't guard well against the improper use of "too" instead of "to," for example, or "there" instead of "their." People make these spelling mistakes all the time without the computer detecting them. So even after using a spell-checking program, read carefully through your writing once more, paying special attention to any word that has an alternate spelling (like "there" and "too"), and also be on guard for typos and incomplete words (like "an" where "and" should be written, or "the" instead of "them").
- What about writing by hand? If you know that your spelling accuracy is sometimes questionable, take the extra time to input the text into a computer program like Word after having written it all out by hand. Though this is more time-consuming, you will be able to take advantage of spell-check, avoiding the costly blunders that it can detect. And as always, take the time to read through the finished document. Usually a few extra moments of examination are the only necessary step for finding common spelling mistakes.
Consistent spelling is a relatively new obsession in the history of our language, but now that it's clearly here, we all had best pay the necessary attention to proper spelling. If you take the time to proofread a document when your eyes are fresh, use a spell-check program, and keep its limitations in mind as well, then you will avoid the vast majority of common spelling mistakes. It's never the end of the world if you make an occasional mistake, but frequent spelling errors can send the wrong message about you. Remember, the writing reflects the person. Make it a good reflection!