Friday, August 12, 2011

5 Ways to Find Spelling Errors

Editing tip #247: Do not rely on the spell check tools in writing programs.

As much as I love those red squiggly lines, Spell Check won’t pick up incorrect words if they are correctly spelled. For example, it will miss ‘though’ if the word should be ‘through’. So, how do I find those elusive mistakes?

1. Print—I have no idea why, but it’s far easier to spot those spelling errors when the text is printed on paper. 

2. Read out loud—Reading my text out loud slows down the tendency to scan my work, which is the main reason we miss those mistakes. Reading to someone else is even more effective.

3. Cover the text—Many use a ruler for this purpose to keep their eye from jumping ahead in the text. A scrap of paper works just fine.

4. Critique Partner—It’s amazing how we can still miss those mistakes. Second opinions are invaluable.

5. Press Send—The surest way to find mistakes is to send off your work to someone you want to impress, for example, an agent or a publisher. 

How do you find spelling errors? How important do you think it is to find those little mistakes?


  1. Spellcheck is the worst for finding errors! I like to print out my work. You're right, easier to spot mistakes. Of course, my wonderful critique partners always find more.

  2. I am constantly reading things out loud. Sure, I seem a little crazy to those wandering by, but it's so helpful. :) Great post!

  3. Other ways I would suggest are change the font. Read it off your Kindle if you have one. Wait a few weeks and then read it again.

    No.5 is the killer, and the one I relate to most strongly.


  4. Great suggestions, Lynda. And the ones mooderino added are ones I hadn't thought of before. Thanks for all the info!
    Pam at

  5. Ha! #5...Murphy's Law in action. Good tips. Also, I've found reading in smaller sections while taking frequent breaks, helps me catch a few things I might have otherwise missed. Personally, I think a misspelled word here or there won't wreck your chances. It's the every other sentence error throughout the entire document, the mistakes where it's obvious you weren't paying attention...the things that distract...those are the things that will make a potential reader stop reading and close your book forever.

  6. I wonder what your neighbors think when you're reading your books aloud to yourself :P
    He he he the fifth advice is wonderfully witty :))

  7. Oh spellcheck! LOL! Oh the horrors! I think no.1 and 4 are the best ways for me!! I think if I ever did no. 5, I'd just go and join a nunnery or grow a beard and be a hermit for the rest of my life! :-)

    Take care

  8. I really like your paper over the words idea. I'm going to try it.

  9. Number five is how I find most of my errors. :P

  10. I like the print method too but it can get expensive.
    I do multiple reads before sending it to a reader. Some mistakes still get through as you can find in almost any published book.

  11. spell check helps but you can't rely on it completely. Reading aloud definitely helps me, and not just with spelling, but with the whole flow of the sentences.

  12. Spellcheck is very irritating, especially if you have strangely-spelled names it won't recognise.

  13. Number 5 cracks me up! Only because it totally applies to something I just sent for a conference critique session. Printing things out works best for me, but I really have to make sure I'm fresh for each read through. Otherwise my eyes can get lazy.

  14. I've always been a good speller, but you have to keep your wits about you. Re-read and concentrate, maybe read aloud.

  15. One person I was talking about this with said to go through the MS backwards, line by line. It's tedious...but it works!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  16. I have two thoughts on spelling errors, my first is that it is imperative that every word is perfect before I send it out. My second is once you've sent it, then it's too late so I convince myself it doesn't really matter.
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  17. No. 2 is wildly underestimated.

  18. Alex, yes, critique partners are awesome.

    Carrie, haha yep we do seem a little crazy, but it comes with the territory.

    Mood, great ideas!

    Pam, thanks

    Valerie, great additional tip. And yes, I totally agree.

    Dezzy, I have thick walls and a fair amount of distance from my neighbours. While I can hear them arguing, they can't hear me reading (I'm pretty sure) ;)

    Old Kitty, I'm already a hermit so I'm set ;)

    Clarissa, great!

  19. I find that printing out my work helps me pick up on niggle spelling errors. Having someone else read it is super important, since I pick up on other people's spelling mistakes far more than I do my own :) Thanks for the tips!

  20. Luanne, unfortunately, same here ;)

    Susan, yep, that's what I do as well.

    mshatch, for sure. Reading aloud has many benefits.

    Trisha, hahaha yeah. Sometimes I'll add those strange names to the dictionary so I don't have to worry about it. ;)

    Jess, absolutely, a fresh perspective is what's needed.

    Anthony, I'm a good speller, but a hopeless typist ;)

    Angela, I've heard that too, but haven't tried it. It makes sense that it would work.

    Charmaine, ha, love your thoughts.

    Suze, agreed!

    Jamie, yeah, what is it with that? I'm always picking up other people's errors and totally missing my own too, lol.

  21. Printing and reading aloud work for me, but I've learnt through bitter experience that getting someone else to check it is a must!

    Great tips.

  22. Great tips.

    But to be truthful I am so bad at finding my own mistakes I have to use an editor!

  23. To answer the question you asked on my blog: I use a tripod.
    I'm lazy too, but if I am going to go that far to get a shot I am going to do my best to make sure it works!

  24. My critique partner found my spelling errors. Can you believe it I spelled the name of few of my characters wrong. I always realize my mistakes too late.

  25. Sometimes even the thought of pressing send will help me spot mistakes! Sad, I know. I have Scrivener read a loud to me while I read along. I've caught stuff that way too.

  26. That is all so through. I've reread something three times just to find words that were correct but had no business being there, and reading out loud is the best way not only to find errors but to make sure your dialogue sounds the way it's supposed too. :)

  27. This is a very thorough, helpful list, Lynda. Thank you!

  28. Great pointers, Lynda. And number 5? Yep. Best way to find typos!

  29. Heheheee, #5. Love it. I've also heard just changing something to a different font helps! Gotta try that one. Reading aloud works pretty well for me; I like that, even though it's tedious.

  30. Even as an tech writer/editor I struggle with editing my own work. Oddly, enough, I've found reading backwards really helps. It slows things down, but you'll definitely catch errors that way for sure.

  31. #5 is so true. LOL

    Let things sit for a week or so, then come back. You'll probably find one or two more.

  32. Press Send! LOVE IT! Reading out loud for me works wonders. So does changing the font to something different (like a serif font if I was using a sans serif) helps me to catch things my eyes just skipped over before.

  33. Great tips! I'll definitely have to try reading it aloud and the ruler one...I think I'll (try to) skip number five, though.

  34. I passed this along to my former newspaper publisher. I told him that as you as you sent it to the press plant, you inevitably caught spelling errors. He said another way to catch errors was to show his wife a copy of the paper. His wife always caught the errors. Spouses are really handy in that way.

  35. Love #5 - I have to print mine out and have someone else read it for me. I can reread mine 3 times and still miss. Another set of eyes is always best.

  36. So true! Especially 5. It seems to happen most with queries. And I read them a zillion times before sending! I think the stress gives me a block or something.

    When I'm tired, I interchange 'that' and 'than'.

  37. Awesome!
    Thanks, Lynda! I truly enjoyed the visit!

  38. #5 - LOL I think they change words so they can feel they did something.

  39. Ellie, absolutely. That second opinion is crucial.

    Al, thanks. And yes, your photography is brilliant.

    Rachna, hehe, I've done that ;)

    Laura, neat tool.

    Laila, yes exactly.(I've had many facepalm moments after going through my prose a number of times and still finding mistakes lol)

    Alyssia, thanks

    Shannon, sadly, I've done it all too often ;)

    Carol, yeah I haven't tried changing the font. I think I will.

  40. Kelly, I second your ugh ;)

    Mark, haven't tried reading backwards though I've heard it works.

    Mary, yes! A break is fantastic because you can go back with a fresh perspective that way.

    Jeff, thanks

    Peggy, great! I'll have to try changing the font.

    Jenna, hehe yeah, that one is best to skip ;)

    Stacy, yep, I did a short stint at a magazine and oh my goodness it's scary how many eyes read a piece before the mistakes are found ;)

    Maeve, yep, I think the 2nd set of eyes is my favourite technique.

    Theresa, yeah, what is it with queries? That's where most of my mistakes are too lol.

    Funny, fantastic :)

    Mary, hahahaha. Quite possibly ;)

  41. I find so many more spelling errors when I print out my manuscript. For some reason my eye just fixes them when staring at a computer screen. Plus, it's an excuse to use my red pen! *evil grin*

    Also, I’m a new follower— wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)

  42. Welcome to my blog, Rachel. Gotta love that red pen ;)

  43. My wife is a typesetter and she reads things backwards to find errors. I can't decide if I should pursue writing, I'm not an English major. I write humor and people die laughing, but I can't imagine a market, and know next to nothing of writing.

  44. You are so right: I can usually spot far more errors - spelling and otherwise - when I print out my work and edit it with a pen.


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