Information and Communication Technology

Using software to help ensure the accuracy of work

Using software to help avoid mistakes

A useful feature of many applications is that the software tries to stop you from making mistakes. Errors are detected and highlighted. Possible corrections are displayed. The software may even auto-correct the mistakes without you noticing what it has done.

A problem with many applications is that the software tries to stop you from making mistakes, even when you don't want it to. Errors are detected and highlighted, even if they are not really errors. Possible corrections are displayed, even when they are worse than the original. The software may even auto-correct the mistakes without you noticing what it has done, resulting in you producing rubbish, or even ending up on embarrassing web pages that display your auto-correction nightmares to the world.

This page looks at some of the methods available to you for checking that your work

Spell check

Acurate werk is speled corectley

A spell check facility is built-in to most modern word processors and desktop publishers. There are also several independent spell check applications.

These include:

Most spell checkers work in a similar way, by comparing words to ones in a dictionary file and highlighting any that do not match with one in that file. After that step different spell checkers may present different options but most will display a list of possible words for you to select. They will also allow you to ignore the word or add it to a personal dictionary so that it is accepted in future.

Common problems with spell checkers include:

You should be prepared to ignore suggestions if you are sure you have the right word,         and possibly add the word to a personal dictionary.

Fortunately setting the desired language is usually just a trivial matter of making a         choice from a menu. If you are using a spell checking application for the first time, it is         sensible to look and see what the language setting is.

Grammar check

Accurate work has its grammar good

A grammar check facility is built-in to some modern word processors and desktop publishers. There are also several independent grammar check applications.

These include:

Most grammar checkers work in one of two ways.

The simpler type uses a dictionary file in a similar way to a spell checker, but instead of single words, the file holds phrases that contain common grammatical errors and / or poor phrasing.

The earliest grammar checkers did little more than identify a suspect phrase and suggest a stock alternative. Since then, they have been developed so that they identify other errors such as double words, incorrect use of capital letters, incorrect use of apostrophes, and overcomplicated sentence structure.

The second type of grammar checker may include a simple checker as it's first stage, but it will also look at several other aspects of language. These differ between applications but may include:

Grammar checkers suffer from the same problems that spell checkers do, and for the same reasons.

They also suffer from their own particular problem, which is that natural languages do not have consistent rules. They do have rules, but they also have lots of exceptions to these rules. e.g. irregular verbs, unusual plural forms of words, and foreign loan words and phrases.

This means that grammar checkers make mistakes, even more mistakes than spell checkers do. If you use a grammar checker to assist you, it is essential that you read its suggestions carefully and not just accept them. They can be very helpful and can also be hilariously wrong.

Print preview

Most software applications that can produce a printout will also have a print preview facility.

This enables you to see what the printout will look like when the printer settings have been applied.

The preview page may also allow you to change some settings if the printout is not what you wanted.

In a practical examination, print preview often gets skipped because it takes up time. If you are just printing an A4 page in portrait orientation, that probably won't matter, but you will often be asked for other types of printout and should check the preview for errors.

Common non-standard printouts include:


Proofreading isn't really using appropriate software facilities to help ensure the accuracy of work, but you should do it anyway.

The problem with proofreading your own work is that you already know what you wrote and people have a tendency to read what they expect to see rather than what is actually there. That means that it is very easy to miss an error.

When you are proofreading it is important to take a bit of time over it. Read each sentence individually, check that it makes sense as a sentence and that the meaning is clear.

When you have checked the individual sentences, you should then re-read the work to see that it makes sense as a whole.

An even bigger problem with proofreading under examination conditions is the stress and time pressure. Most guides to better proofreading include tips such as:

All of these are good advice, but none of them are very useful, or even allowable, in examination conditions.

The best thing you can do is practice beforehand. If you get into the habit of always proofreading your work, you will find it easier to do so in the examination.

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