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2 Best practices for day-to-day academic success

Using a syllabus – Using a rubric – Organizing your workload – Using a spelling and grammar checker – Plagiarism

Using spelling and grammar checkers

Using spelling and grammar checkers is one of the most important things you can do with your work.  If you do not care enough about what you have created to ensure its readability, why should anyone else?  Additionally, everything you produce is a reflection of your employer and professional organizations want to present a professional appearance to their customers.  Poor quality work makes them look bad and results in unemployment for you.  There is much more to creating a professional document than running the spellcheck.  

Google docs does not even have a spellchecker.  You have to select individual words and check them.  This discussion advocates the use of Microsoft Products.  There are freely available word processing, presentation, and databasing products, but none have the flexibility and range of features available in Microsoft Products.  Schools often use these lesser products because the cost of providing Microsoft products to students is very high, but you will need to transition to Microsoft products when you enter the workplace.  Professional environments use the best tools they can get and that means Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.  Google docs is simply not a quality substitute. 

You can access a free version of the Microsoft products at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/products/office.  Get started now to make life easier later.

While Word has the best spellchecker in the word processing environment, it does not find every mistake you might make.  The remainder of this document is a discussion of types of issues and ways to overcome them.  

Spell checking

Word finds many different types of mistakes.  Spelling errors are indicated by red lines.  Other types of mistakes are indicated with blue lines, though some versions of Word also use green lines.  Originally that was designed to show context mistakes (blue) and grammar mistakes (green), but usually you will only see blue lines for both.

It is important to recognize that no spell checker is entirely reliable.  There are two main instances you will encounter.  First are words that are spelled correctly but do not belong in the sentence.  It is very common for Word to miss these.  This often happens with homophones, words that sound the same but have different spellings.  Two, too, to.  Their, there, they’re.  Its, It’s.  These three examples are the most common, but there are hundreds more.  It is worth your time to understand the differences.  The fewer corrections you have to make to your work, the faster it gets done.

The second are words that are spelled correctly but Word does not recognize.  These are most often personal names or foreign words.  These are easy – after checking to be sure you have entered them correctly, you can skip them.  Words that you might use a lot can be added to the dictionary.  An example is COVID.  It has only recently been added to Word through an update, yet it is a word people are using daily.  Simply add it to your dictionary and never be bothered by it again.

Grammar checking

The grammar check in Word makes a dent, but it is not the best available.  It is great for determining number – they are, not they is – but that is the simplest kind of grammar mistake.  There are many free grammar checkers.  I advocate for Grammarly.comThere is a free version.  This does a much better job than Word.  It also explains why it is recommending a change when you hover, allowing you to select the recommended change with just a click.

It is never a good idea to just accept their recommendations without actually reading the reason and determining for yourself if it is viable.  In writing, you may choose to leave something incorrect on purpose or it may not be wrong in the context in which it is being used.  Your own grasp of grammar and the English language must be good enough to make decisions for yourself.

Other proofing steps

There are two other important steps you must take.  Both are fairly easy. 

First, read your work out loud.  If you can read it through smoothly you have probably eliminated most of the problems.  If you trip over words, stall out, have to stop to find your place, or anything else you need to stop to find out why.  Very often we find little mistakes this way, such as writing and instead of an.  Word will never find that.  Grammarly might.  The other major problem found through this method are sentences that just don’t make sense.  If you can’t follow the thought through the whole sentence or paragraph, you will need to reword it.

Second, get someone else to read it.  This is far more important than you might think.  You get familiar with your work.  You know what you intended to say.  Another reader can tell you whether or not you actually said it.  You have to make sure they will be sincere and if you are asked to read for someone else, you have to actually help.  Point out the parts you do not understand or that sound awkward.

Please contact us at 254-647-1414 or library@rangercollege.edu.