F7 at Your Own Risk

Do you 'spell check'?

Of course you do. 90,000 words later, when you've finally dotted all the 'I's and crossed all the 'T's of your pièce de résistance, you can't take the chance that you overlooked some little faux pas that might give your readers the impression that your command over the English language isn't up to par. So you reach for the F7 key and let fly. What you get should be familiar in one form or another to any user of modern word processing programs:

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The options are straightforward, but it helps to be careful. A three-hundred page novel can be a joy to write, a challenge to edit...and an absolute bore to spell check. The options are as follows:

  • Ignore Once: Selecting this option will tell the program to ignore this one instance of a potentially misspelled word.
  • Ignore All: This option tells the program to ignore ALL instances of this particular spelling quandry.
  • Add to Dictionary: You are now God, and this particular word, which was once not a word, is now a word, because you say so. Use this to tell the program to treat any further instances as a correctly spelled word. You should be using this frequently for character names.
  • Change: See that window at the bottom with all those words in it? Those are the program's suggestions - what it thinks you're trying to say. If you like one of them, select it and choose this option. The program will use the word you selected.
  • Change All: For the bold - this option will change EVERY instance of the potential misspelling throughout the entire document as whatever word you select from the suggestion list.
  • Autocorrect: Be careful here, as now you're letting the program make the decisions for you. It will change the potentially misspelled word to whatever the first choice on the suggestion list is.

First thing's first. Make sure you not only understand what every option does, but that you're taking more than half a second to choose the right one. The 'all' options are bold selections. Are you absolutely certain you want every instance of the word in question to change, throughout your manuscript? There are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Your word processor only speaks one language at a time. Parlez-vous français? may make perfect sense to you, but to your word processor, it has more to do with parleying vows from some guy named Francis, and lord knows Francis isn't an easy guy to parley with.
  • Your spell-checker has never read Tom Sawyer. Neither have the tiny grammar police living inside your motherboard. Try typing in "Ach lad, iffn ye did nae know what’s happenin’ next then I’ve a bridge to sell ya, I do!" and see where that gets you. Consider the fact that at least one of your characters is speaking this way throughout your book, and I dare you to use an 'all' option.
  • If you want your word processor to recognize the names of all of your characters, I hope you're ready for the John Smith brigade.

That last one leads us to the poor case of Jervis Castradé up there. As you can see, if we're getting sick of telling the computer what every last little colloquialism means and we accidentally bop the wrong button, Jervis will be the unfortunate recipient of unintended complications.

I had just such a head-scratcher not so long ago. Those who are familiar with the Traveler of Ord saga will doubtless be acquainted with the riding animals of choice in the Goldenwealth -- horned, horse-like creatures with extra legs called escarots (chariots and Judas Iscariot notwithstanding). Just before The Goldenwealth Light first hit the shelves back in 2012, a kind-hearted beta reader (my father of all people) bemusedly asked me just what kind of appendages I was talking about. I checked the text, and there was indeed a single instance of an escarot with 'sex legs'. I got lucky, as I'm sure I would have been the scourge of mothers and preachers everywhere if that one had made it to the local library shelves. I'd also like to add that contrary to what you may have heard, Chapter Twenty-Sex of Everywhere the Road Ends, Book II of the Traveler of Ord Saga, will only be included in the adult version, scheduled for release sometime in the winter of 200never.

Long story short - be careful when you spell check. You'll want to avoid this:

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Somebody should make a T-shirt. "Do YOU F7?"

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