Friday, September 25, 2015

The Wonders of Word

I was teaching a class on Microsoft Word today. I came to my office early and spent 45 minutes prepping the document I was going to work with. One of the things I would be showing the students was spell checking, so I deliberately introduced a number of errors into my document, which happened to be a paper I wrote. I spell checked it and everything worked as I expected. I posted the document to Blackboard, our online teaching tool.

Then I brought the document up live, on my smart board, in front of the class, and went to show them how to spell check it. (They also had the same document on their workstation so they could spell check along with me.) I launched spell checking, on a document I knew for sure had many errors in it, and immediately received the message:

"Spelling and grammar check complete. You're good to go!"

And so did every student! Aaaaagh!

Luckily I recovered my composure and said, "Let's Google this problem." We searched for "Word won't spell check," or something like that, and found a tip to check our document language. I did so, and found that, because my co-author's street address, at the top of the document, is in German, Word had decided on the fly that the whole document was in German, and had switched the language accordingly. (Recall spell checking was working minutes earlier on a different computer, so at that point the document language was clearly not set to German.)

And because my college hasn't installed a German dictionary with Word, Word could not run a spell check at all on this "German" document. So instead of telling me, "Can't run spell check: no German dictionary," it told me "Spelling and grammar check complete. You're good to go!"

It is as though I brought my car to a mechanic for a tune-up. Once I left, the mechanic realized my car was a German model, and he didn't have the tools necessary to work on it. Therefore, when I arrived back later that day, he informed me, "Tune up complete! You're good to go!"


  1. I think your analogy undersells the stupidity slightly. It's more like the mechanic happened to see your registration and noticed that the car is registered to your wife, who has a German name, and therefore decided that the car must itself be German.


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