LegalMBE

The Perils of Spellcheck: Tricky Typos to Avoid

Spellcheck can be a writer’s best friend. With the simple tap of a key, it will alert you when your essay or brief has a typographical error. That one step can save you from lost meaning, reader confusion, and personal embarrassment. Pretty great, right? 

Unfortunately, spellcheck has a dark side. It can give writers a false sense of security. Instead of carefully reading (and rereading) what they’ve written, many writers rely exclusively on spellcheck. They figure that if spellcheck shows no errors, their document is good to go. But here’s the problem—spellcheck misses stuff! 

Spellcheck won’t always catch things that you’ve mistyped but are still words. In other words (pun definitely intended), you may be correctly spelling the wrong words! This means that our writing is susceptible to human errors that only humans can catch. So what’s a time-pressed writer to do? As always, UWorld is here to help! 

Our first suggestion: Watch out for accidentally skipping a letter but still creating a word that spellcheck will accept. Here are a few examples:

IF YOU TYPED
THIS WORD
MAKE SURE YOU
DIDN’T MEAN THIS ONE
Apprise: To inform or notify (“Please keep me apprised of any developments”)Appraise: To put a value on something (“The necklace was appraised at $5,000”)
Breath: A single inhaling and exhaling of air (“He took a deep breath before speaking”)Breathe: To take in oxygen (“The air was so smoky that it was difficult to breathe”)
Contact: A touching or meeting of body surfaces (“Football and hockey have virtually nonstop contact”)Contract: An agreement between two or more persons (“They formalized their arrangement in a written contract”)
Later: Subsequently or in the future (“I am busy now but can meet with you later”)Latter: The second of two (“After hearing both offers, she accepted the latter one”)
Statue: A three-dimensional work of art (“The statue was carved in stone and wood”)Statute: A law enacted by a legislature (“Congress rejected the proposed amendments to the statute”)
Wave: To motion with a hand or a held object (“She waved a flag”)Waive: To voluntarily relinquish (“The defendant waived his right to a jury trial”)

Also watch out for inadvertently using an incorrect letter but still creating a word that spellcheck will approve. For example:

IF YOU TYPED
THIS WORD
MAKE SURE YOU
DIDN’T MEAN THIS ONE
Altar: An elevated structure from which a ritual or worship is led (“The proud parents joined their daughter at the altar”)Alter: To modify or change (“The recluse altered his will to leave all his possessions to charity”)
Ballet: A classical dance form (“Her ballet performance was especially graceful”)Ballot: A piece of paper used to cast a vote (“He was tempted to add a write-in candidate to his ballot”)
Capitol: The building in which a legislature meets (“Many state capitols have gilded domes”)Capital: Punishable by death (“Murder is a capital offense”) or the official seat of government for a larger area (“Tokyo is the capital of Japan”)
Compliment: To flatter or praise (“To put him at ease, she quickly complimented him on his new haircut”)Complement: To complete or bring to perfection (“The maroon necktie beautifully complemented his new grey suit”)
Confidant: A trusted friend or associate (“After just one semester, the roommate had become her closest confidant”)Confident: Certain or self-assured (“The mayor was confident that her proposal would be adopted”)
Ingenious: Clever and original (“The smartphone was an ingenious invention”)Ingenuous: Candid, naive, and free of artifice (“The speaker was as ingenuous as Forrest Gump”)
Lesson: A learning session (“The student was late for her piano lesson”)Lessen: To diminish or reduce (“Spelling errors lessened the article’s impact”)
Stationery: Letter paper, often with matching envelopes (“She handwrote her notes on personalized stationery”)Stationary: Standing still or immobile (“The guard remained stationary at his post despite heckling from passersby”)

And here are some more tips to make sure you’re not blindsided by spellcheck:

  • When it comes to typing and spelling, assume that spellcheck missed something.
  • Always reread your writing. An extra review will likely catch that pesky spelling error and improve the substance of your document.
  • If you have that nagging feeling that you might have misspelled a word, check a dictionary
  • If you’re still concerned, have a trusted confidentconfidant review your document. A fresh set of eyes never hurts!    

And speaking of eyes … yours will be rewarded if you take a look at our expertly crafted MBE® explanations. Click here to access the UWorld MBE QBank or purchase a subscription.

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