Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why spell-check is dangerous.

Just as I was starting to get a little weighed-down by the tales of widespread bloodshed, natural disasters, human tragedy and political hypocrisy in today's Times, I stumbled on this little pick-me-up.

A typo in an Arkansas law passed this year makes it legal for Arkansas children to get married, provided they have parental consent and are not pregnant.

The law was supposed to maintain 18 as the minimum age for marriage but allow an exception for younger Arkansas citizens who are pregnant. But here's how the law reads instead:

"In order for a person who is younger than 18 years of age and who is not pregnant to obtain a marriage license, the person must provide the county clerk with evidence of parental consent to the marriage."

Arkansas needs a copyeditor. That rogue "not" managed to sneak in to the law (in my imagination, it was an intentional insertion by a bitter law school student working late hours as an intern and hopped up on too much Jolt), and now non-consenting babies could technically be married off in their cribs by controlling parents.

I appreciate the limitations of spell-check, as someone who has gritted my teeth through grading many a freshman paper on television adds, war and piece, a story's brave heroin, a character's ability to mints words, their favorite thing to do when the sun shins, that one time in the passed when they past a test, or - most egregious to a grammar nerd like me - they're own life experiences, why your the way you are, or how a dog knows it's owner. ::Wince:: I think this Arkansas snafu is hilarious, and it's an important lesson for anyone who thinks spell-checking something is the same as proofreading it. Yes, it will catch some errors. But it also makes you lazy. And it doesn't pick up half of your typos. Or any of your meaning. (See Arkansas law above.)

Lawmakers are abuzz, expressing concern that pedophiles will flock to Arkansas to get parental consent to marry a small child. (What parent in their right mind would consent to that?) I, on the other hand, am laughing my ass off. In the grand scheme of things, I don't really think this typo will have serious consequences. But the consequence I hope it DOES have? Stop relying on your goddamn spell-check.

I leave you with one of my favorite poems, "Ode to my spell checker." I'm sure you've read it somewhere before. But just for S&G's, paste it in to a new post edit field on blogger, which uses a spell-check function. According to blogger, the poem contains no errors. If you're a Microsoft Word nut and rely on the grammar checker there, try pasting it in. You'll see it contains no spelling errors and only 4 grammar errors, all toward the end of the poem, and that's it. I rest my case.

Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea.
It plainly marks four my revue miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a quay and type a word and weight for it to say
Weather eye yam wrong oar write.
It shows me strait a weigh as soon as a mist ache is maid.
It nose bee fore two long and eye can put the error rite.
Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it,
I am shore your pleased to no.
Its letter perfect awl the way.
My checker told me sew.

1 comment:

come clean said...

I must admit I have been guilty of this on more than one occassion. But it never resulted in something quite this bad.