Autocorrect: I don’t think I’d remember how to spell “February” without it, but every time that it corrects my more anger-driven messages to “ducking hell,” I want to light autocorrect on fire. I have a love-hate relationship with spell- and grammar-check as well. These systems aren’t always right, and as helpful as they can be, sometimes they end up keeping the words from flowing by debating instead if there really should be a comma there. That little red or blue squiggly line always stops me dead in the track of writing. Sometimes, it’s a quick fix – a typo or a switched “i before e” – but sometimes it’s a stylistic choice. Maybe I want to write “omg” in lowercase, but autocorrect thinks it should be capitalized. This decision is one that the author should be able to make themselves, but when an anonymous check system is telling you it has to be one way, it’s very easy to doubt your own knowledge.
Not only are these inept at determining stylistic choices from real errors, they enforce outdated notions of “correct” language and “slow down natural linguistic evolution” (McColloch 46). Language changes according to how it is used; it is not static. However, when our search engines are programmed with one version of English, that becomes the standard, and shoves out other variants and dialects. It is the decisions we make about our writing that brings the power; correcting and check tools are dampening our written voices.
My suggestion for you is not to turn off these tools – I know my papers would be riddled with spelling errors if I did that – but make the conscious decision to accept or deny the suggestion. Don’t allow a pre-programmed system to decide how you speak.
Contributed by: Natalie Neale-Lorello, Writing Center tutor