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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Self-editing silliness by Kaye Spencer

A few days ago, I completed the last go-round of self-edits on a full-length western romance novel that I'll submit to Prairie Rose Publications toward the end of this month. Then, I sent the manuscript off to my editor for her clichéd 'fine tooth combing' to catch those beastly embarrassing errors that I've missed.

After I edited myself cross-eyed on this manuscript, I ran Microsoft Word's spelling/grammar check to catch doubled words (the the), incidences of missed punctuation and spacing, words butted up to each other (hesaid), errors in capitalization (elizabeth needs an E), straightforward spelling errors (cottton), and so forth. While I do read the sentence structure/grammar suggestions, I don't often find any usable (meaning correct) suggestions.

Word's spelling/grammar check tool misses as many errors as it offers incorrect fixes. Here are examples from my manuscript to illustrate just how goofy spellcheck can be.

*My sentence: His grip was strong, yet gentle, his gaze...
  Spellcheck:   His grips was strong, yet gentle, his gazes...

*My sentence of dialogue: "How is that possible?"
  Spellcheck suggested changing "How" to any of these: Hoy, Hoz, Show, O, Ha, He

*My sentence: He interjected, “Luis, perhaps that is none of your business.”
  Spellcheck:    He interjected, “Luis, perhaps which is none of your business.”

*My sentence: "She was close enough to reach out and touch..."
  Spellcheck:    "She was closes enough to reach out and touches..."

*My description: ...they took their trade to the their carretas.
  Spellcheck wants carretas to be 'carrots'. Must be a BIG carrot.

*My dialogue: "I would have crossed the Jornada Del Muerto to Mesilla..."
(Side note, the spellchecking lost its mind over the Spanish words in this story)
  Spellcheck: Change Jornada to tornado. Talk about loosing something in the translation. ;-)

The priest in my story is named Father Bartolo. Spellcheck wants him to be Father Barstool. 0_o

Newspaper headline: Distraught FiancĂ© on Trail of Kidnapper. Spellcheck suggested changing 'Trail' to 'Trial'. Hmm. Switching those two vowels really changes the meaning.

Spellcheck suggested that I change Pinkerton (as in detective agency) to 'Pinker ton'. What is a Pinker? And why would I want a ton of it? What would I do with a ton of Pinker once I got it? Maybe my ton of pink is pinker than your ton of pink. Why would this even be a suggestion?

One of my characters uses poor English and grammar, so spellcheck wants "hisself" to become "his elf". Not sure there are any elves roaming around the Texas prairie, but then... maybe. pffssst. And, in this sentence, "I ain't figgered it out", I should change the figgered to jiggered.

Chapter Twenty should be 'Captor Twenty'. I don't know why spellcheck singled out Chapter Twenty out of twenty-seven to hold captive.

The one that made me snort was "tin-panny piano". Spellcheck wants it to be "tin-puny piano". Sort of works. ;-)

But, the best suggestion was in the scene when one guy punches another guy. Spellcheck suggested that I change "fist" to "first". Apparently, I've had it wrong all these years. It's a first fight, not a fist fight. Silly me. Spellcheck would have gone up in flames if it had been a first fist fight.

A recent addition to my self-editing ritual is to listen to the 'speak' option read the story aloud while I follow along in the document (thanks to Jacquie Rogers for sharing this as one of her self-editing steps). The silliest thing I encountered was with the word "sob", as in crying. The automated reader spelled it out—S.O.B. Now, that was some funny stuff.

What goofiness have you encountered with a spellchecker or a read aloud program? Anecdotes anyone?

New from Kaye Spencer - A Permanent Woman - a story in the anthology...

Until next month,


Fall in love...faster, harder, deeper with Kaye Spencer romances
Twitter - @kayespencer


  1. I rather think Father Barstool would be a kick. Maybe you need to give him his own story. :)

    My silliest text-to-speech error is when I write "c'mon," as in "come on," which is a pretty common contraction in my books. Kindle never heard of it, though, and reads, "see Monday." So it's "See Monday, we'll run those dirty scoundrels into the ground." I guess if it's Tuesday, the scoundrels will get a 6-day head start. :)

    1. Father Barstool... sounds like a good name for the hero in a 1960s biker story. ;-)

  2. Replies
    1. Miss Mae,

      Yes, it is funny in an exasperating sort of way. lol

  3. Oh my, don't you just love that computer programmers and their machines believe they can change the world one word at at time. (Snort) Still they do provide great moments of laughter, which, when I'm editing are nice breaks.

    Best on this story as it goes through the 'edits'. Doris

    1. Doris,

      Thanks for the well-wishes on the story. I'm so sick of self-editing this story, which I'm still doing even though the story is in the hands of my editor. (Me=OCD with editing) 0_o

  4. Kaye,
    Very funny post! I have to admit, I never use spell checker. I guess I've never trusted it. But, it's handy for a good laugh.

    1. Kristy,

      I don't trust spell checker past its ability to catch blatant errors (doubled words, missed capitalization, etc.) and even then, it's not reliable. *sigh*

  5. Kaye, it good to know I am not the only one who gets a little distracted while using spell check and other computer programs for editing. I corrected wouldn't to would nots-couldn'ts to could nots till my eyes crossed. It was also a lot of fun seeing what the program came up with when it edited my Vietnamese names.

    1. Barbara,

      I can imagine spell checker having all sorts of issues with Vietnamese names because it about lost its composure with all the Spanish words in my manuscript. If there are several foreign words/phrases in close proximity, spell check automatically switches to *that* language and then reads the English words as incorrect.

      Now THAT is annoying. lol

  6. Kaye, you certainly bring up a subject many of us have probably experienced with spell and grammar check. Mine doesn't know the appropriate use of "its" vs. "it's". It tries to insert the wrong one all the time. Forget the use of commas; mine doesn't know a comma from a semicolon.
    I keep a dictionary and my Prentice Hall Handbook For Writers on the desk at all times. Of course, you have to know you've made a mistake in order to correct it, so things get overlooked at times.
    Good thing we have editors, isn't it?
    One thing is for certain: we all keep trying to improve our work. Each story we write brings us a little closer to perfection. I've learned so much form editors and fellow authors.
    Kindle does it's own version of what it "thinks" you want to say and will covertly throw a word in instead of the one you wrote and intended. Good thing I don't write manuscripts from Kindle.
    Good blog, Kaye. It's always good to be reminded to be more mindful of our grammar and spelling and to not rely too heavily on spellcheck alone.

    1. Sarah,

      Your statement is so true: "Of course, you have to know you've made a mistake in order to correct it, so things get overlooked at times."

      We all see it time and again. "Your" for you're. "Suppose to" instead of supposed to. "A whole nuther" instead of another whole. And so forth.

      I was well into my elementary years before I understood that 'wash' didn't have an 'r' in it. My mother, to this day, still says, warshed, Warshington, warsh your hands. I think colloquialisms influence incorrect language usage, and it becomes so much of a habit, that it's hard to correct without conscious effort.

  7. Kaye, I laughed all the way through this. As if we don't make enough mistakes on our own! :-D

    I think Tornado Del Muerto works, actually. Most folks in Tornado Alley have even more colorful descriptors for twisters. ;-)

    The most amusing spellcheck correction I've ever encountered was a suggested change for an interviewee's name. All the way through an article I wrote, spellcheck wanted me to change the man's surname from Hymes to Hymens. (I thought about doing it, too. The guy has a great sense of humor, but that might have stretched even his penchant for levity. :-D )

    1. Oh, Kathleen, "Hymen" - That's hysterical.

      And you're exactly right, we don't need any help to make our own writing mistakes. I'm OCD-ing my way through this manuscript AGAIN while I wait for my editor to go through it, and I'm finding so many no-brainer errors that I'm embarrassed that I sent it to her in that condition. 0_o

  8. I'm one of those that doesn't use spell checker either, like Kristy. I used it one time, in a galaxy far, far away, and it did something to the hero's name all the way through--I can't remember what it was, now. After that, I just thought, no, I will trust myself more than this damn computer. LOL

    Very funny post, Kaye. I will use find and replace, but only if I go to each one and actually do it myself rather than a generalized "click" to do it all.

    Great post--I really enjoyed it, and I look forward to your story!

    1. Cheryl,

      I understand about weirdness popping up when spell checker changes something. I had a publisher's editor decided that 'and' always had to go before 'then' so she did a Find and Replace and changed it without considering where the letters A-N-D were going to show up without the 'then'. It wasn't a pretty sight.

  9. This is too funny. I want that Arrrgh key on my laptop!