Candidate for a Pulitzer Prize?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a poem about the perils of spell checkers…

My supremely irritating spell checker insists on “correcting” words that aren’t wrong. For example, whenever I write the word “hotlink” it always tries to autocorrect it to “hotline.” (It just did it again. ARGH.)

This is just one example of how spell checkers can aggravate. But perhaps the biggest annoyance is that they don’t recognize homophones — words that sound the same but that mean entirely different things. Examples: new/knew, so/sew, to/too/two.

Over the years I’ve seen various clever attempts to itemize the perils of spell checkers but recently, a reader sent me a very funny poem on the subject. It’s titled “Candidate for a Pullet Surprise” and it’s by Jerrold H. Zar, a former professor and vice-provost at Northen Illinois University. (Apologies for not having noted the name of my reader. I’ve torn my hard drive apart and can’t find it anywhere! If it was you, please email me and I’ll add your name here.)

Here is the beginning of the poem, to give you a sense of its flavour:

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

For a light-hearted look at homonyms and the perils they pose to writers who rely on their spell checkers for help, read the whole poem. There are also notes from a brief and amusing interview with Zar at the end.

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