When it comes to editing services, one of the statements I’ve heard throughout my career is “Why can’t I just use my word processor? It checks spelling and grammar.”
The statement is factually correct: Most word processors do offer both spell- and grammar-check. Those programs, however, were never meant to replace a human editor.
When you misspell a word, the WP offers suggestions for correction. There are some problems, however.
- If you spell a word correctly but use it incorrectly, the WP won’t always catch it. For instance, “I’m going too the store.”
- Plural forms of words can be tricky, and spell-check doesn’t always understand the complexities.
- If you use the British format of a word, the WP will mark it as incorrect.
- Spell-check can quickly become outdated.
As far as grammar-check:
- It doesn’t understand and therefor cannot correct misused or forgotten commas, colons, semi-colons, hyphens, or ellipses.
- It cannot correct problems with tense or point of view.
- It can’t catch inconsistencies (e.g., when a character with black hair is suddenly described as having brown hair).
- It won’t fix the format of epigraphs, block quotations, or in-line citations.
- It doesn’t notice unintentional plagiarism.
In short, while word processors have come a long, long way, they still have miles to go. Until then, a real-life human editor can make all the difference.