TalentMEDIA: You’re Smarter Than Spell-Check

Our Clients Have Learned to Depend on Us

The AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI)—the “think tank” for AARP composed of more than 60 staff members, a large number of which are thought leaders and subject matter experts—has been working with Vector (formerly EEI) for several years. Vector has become one of PPI’s most trusted business partners. Vector’s review and imprint is on virtually every piece of content that PPI publishes. For years we have worked closely with the company, relying on its staff for editorial support (copyediting and more extensive editing) and graphic design services (layout, design, formatting, etc.). We work with Vector on almost a daily basis, having already produced approximately 139 publications in 2017 alone.

Vector to a large extent can be credited with accurate implementation of PPI’s brand and the “look and feel” of our publications. It has created all of our publication templates. Vector comes through when we need their support for long-term projects as well as during stressful stretches when we demand quick turnaround during “emergencies” that arise.

— Carl Levesque, Senior Writer and Editor, AARP – Policy, Research and International Affairs


Spell-checking features are often lifesavers, but they are not all-knowing. An editor learns quickly to read every there/their/they’re and you/your/you’re carefully to make sure the correct version of the word is used for the particular context. As you get to know your clients, you should also build a list of their most easily mistaken words. You’ll probably learn these the hard way, but once you do, don’t let it happen again. For example:

  • Clients who focus on financial “policies” are probably not talking about “polices” all that often.
  • International “country” organizations don’t usually wade into “county” matters.
  • Pharmacies are concerned with your “health,” but not with your “heath.”
  • A real no-no is when a charity seeks to help the “underserved” but calls them the “undeserved.”
  • Perhaps because I can see the Capital Beltway from my desk at work, the most frequent mis-type I find is about the good old U.S.A. These states are “United” – not “Unites” or “Unite” or (I’ve seen it so many times) “Untied.”

Spell-check doesn’t see these distinctions. Often a quickly reading eye won’t either. Slow yourself down when you get to these trick spots or, even better, search for each applicable one before you start your edit. It will take just a little time, and then you can read without the panic that you might accidentally endorse something called the Untied Kingdom.

You should also keep an eagle eye out for VIP names. The CEO, program director, or celebrity spokesperson whose name appears time and again should be double-checked in each instance. Unless an editor is fact-checking, a one-off name is assumed to be correct. But internal consistency must be maintained if a name is mentioned more than once in a document, and it’s considered part of the client style that we master the spelling of their frequently used names. And don’t commit them to memory – cut and paste the right spelling to your style guide so that each time you need it, you know you’re seeing the correct name. Or go old school and write it on a printed style sheet – the one I used for a government client for years had Condoleezza with the correct number of e’s and z’s handwritten on page 1. Until that was crossed out and Hillary with both her l’s took over.

Spell-check is a good partner for an editor, an excellent back-up. It’s best used at the start of a job, to flag obvious errors so you can concentrate on the rest of the words. If you use spell-check at the end of your editing, you risk getting lazy, thinking spell-check will catch everything later. Remember, it will never catch everything. My computer would be happy to title this article “Your Smarter Then Spell-Check” – does that hurt your eyes as much as it hurts mine? What are some words you’ve trained yourself to search out? Did you learn them the hard way?


Written by Sheila Gagen, the Director of Editorial Services at Vector TalentMEDIA. If you need editing assistance or would like more information about our services, check out our website at www.vectortalent.com/talentmedia/.

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