When I first started writing, I was delighted to learn about a nifty book called a Thesaurus, which suggested new words to replace ones I grew tired of using. However, I assumed each of their suggestions would work in every situation. I didn’t know I had to understand the meaning of these words and determine which one, if any, fit my particular need. Instead, I picked the words that sounded cool. As you can imagine, I made some very poor choices before I realized the right way to use a Thesaurus.
Similarly, when I started using spell check, each time it warned me I might be using the wrong word, I assumed the program was smarter than I, so I always used their suggested replacement. As a result, I interjected errors in my work because I didn’t understand how the program worked and wasn’t discerning about its recommendations.
Autocorrect can also get us in trouble. Never assume the change made is correct; always verify. We see this most often, sometimes humorously, in text messages, but it can also happen in our more important writing, too.
Likewise, other writing tools and aids carry with them inherent risks when misused.
There are two prerequisites to use writing tools wisely. First, we need to understand the purpose of the resource and how to properly apply it. Second, we need a firm grounding in the basics of writing in order to discern if the suggestion is correct for each particular situation.
If we fail to do so, our writing fails to be its best.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.