Spelling Checkers Don’t Always Get it Right

As these students learned the hard way.

Interesting news that hopefully taught a few Brigham Young students a valuable lesson…from Brigham Young Univ Newspaper Recalled Over “Apostle/Apostate” Mix-up.

All copies of the student paper at Brigham Young University have been recalled after a caption labeled a group of Mormon church leaders as “apostates” instead of “apostles.”

The paper claims it was typo caused by spell check. Students, the university statement suggests, are “confused” over the matter but some claim paper is known to be “sloppy” anyway. Readers were told to peruse the paper online.

The university explained: “A spelling error appeared in a photo caption in which the word ‘apostle’ was rendered as ‘apostate.’ In referring to activities at the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last weekend, the caption read in part, ‘Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostates and other general authorities raise their hands in a sustaining vote. . . ‘.€

Given the circumstance, it’s actually pretty funny. As my Dictionary widget informs me, in the Mormon Church, an apostle is one of the twelve administrative officers of the Church. An apostate, on the other hand, is “a person who renounces a religious or political belief or system.” Whoa.

This is a grand example of today’s students’ dependency on writing tools — such as spelling checkers — to get things right. Not only did the author of the piece not know the correct spelling of apostle — in itself hard to believe when the word has such significance in that particular school — but when presented with a list of choices for the correct spelling, the student chose the wrong one. That means he or she aparently can’t read, either. Or was too lazy to look the word up in a dictionary. (Heck, I had the full definition of apostate within 5 seconds with a few keystrokes.)

Of course, it also says a lot about the proofreading — or lack thereof — of the newspaper in question by people who should know better.

This all goes back to something I’ve been saying since I began teaching and writing about word processing way back in 1990: a spelling checker will help make sure the spelling is right, but it can’t do a thing to make sure the word is right.

Hat tip to @vectorbabe on Twitter for sharing the link.

What do you think?