Published in El Pais, 19 June 2018.
Recently a friend of mine was studying for the TOEFL exam and was having trouble on one section. He requested I attempt it and then give pointers on how he can improve his score. Happy to oblige I did the practice exam and to my surprise I only got 75%. For someone whose first language is English, I found this score to be rather low. Although I got every answer correct, I lost a lot of marks for spelling. Now I have never been the best speller but looking at all the answers I got wrong I knew I could spell those words and I can not help but blame computers for my regression in this skill.
The fact is every time I spell something wrong on the computer or my phone, auto correct is there for me, and whenever I make hand written notes my spelling is nothing short of disastrous. This should be a surprise to know one as you may well be in the same boat. When one survey asked 2000 respondents to spell common words like “definitely” nearly two thirds got it wrong.
As embarrassing as my spelling has become I will continue to use auto correct as a tool in my writing as now most of my important writing is done on a computer so I personally do not see a problem with relying too much on it. Where it can be most dangerous however is assuming auto correct will make everything perfect. Everyone’s spelling may be getting worse but that does not mean they do not find it important and having a spelling error on something like a resume or presentation can make a terrible impression no matter how qualified or thorough your presentation may be as you as you can be perceived as someone who misses attention to detail.
It is a shame that the ability to spell is becoming a rare talent but if you can double check the work of your safety net you should be fine. If you do not proofread your work however you man not notice that it changed it to the wrong word or your spelling may be accurate but grammatically makes little sense, making you more embarrassed than if you had not used auto correct in the first place.