SportsProf

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Dangers of Spell-Check

Or, at least, the program in Word that can help create an unintentionally amusing situation.

And, here, I'm telling a story on myself.

Yesterday, I was sending an e-mail to a colleague asking him to create a summary to help justify a project. I told him to include all sorts of information, and I asked that the first two lines summarize the importance of the project (so that he could hook the reader right away).

The problem was, though, that I type fast and created a typo. Spell-check caught it, and as I ran through spell-check I hit "ok" or "change" to the first alternative that was offered up to correct my typo, thinking that it would pick the right word.

It didn't, and the result was hilarious, at least to me. (I ultimately caught the error, arranged to recall the message and believe I did so successfully, although it can be hard to tell). I'm sure if I didn't recall it the people to whom I sent it, with whom I've worked for a while, would have laughed at the error too.

So here goes: I meant to tell the recipient to discuss early on the importance of the project (okay, it sounds obvious that that's what you should do in a summary, but so be it). As I said, I type fast, and I misspelled "importance". I left out the "r", so that "impotance" is was showed up. Writing quickly, I assumed that the first alternative spell-check would have offered would have been "importance", so as I rushed my way through spell-check I accepted the first alternative that was offered without looking too closely.

Except it wasn't "importance." It was, you guessed it, "impotence."

I had occasion to re-read the message about two minutes later when I went to check to see if I conveyed a key detail (I had), and I caught the mistake. "Please make sure that you write about the impotence of the project early on to hook the reader." Or something like that.

And I had to admit, it was a classic, a 180-degree goof up. Yes, my fair colleague, please write about how bad the project is in the first two sentences and why it won't work. Given how hard I've been working lately, I could only laugh at myself at how silly the sentence read, and I learned a lesson, which is that you have to take more time with spell-check.

Or else risk using words that convey the opposite of what you intended.

Even if they create temporary amusement in the process.

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