Re: MS will help us find the right words?

Subject: Re: MS will help us find the right words?
From: "Edgar D' Souza" <edgar -dot- b -dot- dsouza -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: Michael West <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 10:22:28 +0530

On Sun, Feb 22, 2009 at 4:27 PM, Michael West <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- com> wrote:
> Edgar D' Souza wrote:
>> You mean like spell-checkers taking away people's ability to spell
>> correctly? :-)
> I don't know how to interpret that smiley. (I never do, it seems.)
> Do you mean that people who know how to spell are somehow tragically and
> horribly stripped of that knowledge by using a spelling checker?
> How can this be?

No, I don't mean it quite that drastically... what I meant was that
when people rely on an electronic (or other external aid) for a task,
instead of letting their brain handle it... the ability atrophies. In
much of my editing, I encounter 'spell-checked-correct' but
contextually very wrong words. A simple example - the other day, I
came across this gem: "Most kinds of malware posses a threat to
productivity" (somewhat paraphrased). I say gem because it was a
double fault - not only should it have been 'pose' instead of 'poses',
but (I hope) a typo added the extra 's' to yield that horrible

Similar phenomena include:
- The electronic calculator removes the need for mental arithmetic,
and lets that facility atrophy.
- Using a keyboard for over 90% of all output (email, documents, etc)
lets handwriting get quite bad (personally, I now ignore PDA and
smartphone and take pen to paper to make shopping or task lists, just
to reassure myself I can still write!

I think the old "use it or lose it" and "the mind is a muscle" sum it
up neatly. Yes, productivity sometimes requires us to discard older
ways of doing things, but where it's possible to maintain the mental
abilities, it makes sense to do so - would you agree with that?

> I spell just well enough to know when I need to look something up. A
> spelling check has never done any more for me than call my attention to a
> typing error (and those I make frequently).

Yes, and I suspect most of us do too.

> Can a spelling check take away my "ability to spell correctly"? If a person
> is able to spell correctly, how can a spelling check suddenly render them
> unable?

Not suddenly, but over a period of time, letting an external aid
substitute itself for a mental ability will usually result in the loss
of that mental ability.

> Or is this irony the point you meant to make with that smiley?

No, not really, as I've said above.

Edgar D'Souza (
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Re: MS will help us find the right words?: From: Michael West

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