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I've always thought a spelling checker is a tool that checks spelling. I know a growing number of people say spell checker, but I've always considered that slang. Recently I did a search for the term and saw that many professionally-edited outlets use the shorter version. Has the shorter term become acceptable in formal writing?

Does it generalize to the verb form as well?

  1. I need to spell check my document.
  2. I need to check the spelling in my document.
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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Spellcheck and spellchecker are both in OED.

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I've usually seen it used in combination form: spellchecker. The verb is spellcheck and it conjugates the same way check does. It's also used as spell checker, and I guess you can take your pick.

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I always use spelling checker; a spell checker is something Harry Potter needs. –  Marthaª Feb 10 '11 at 1:37
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@Martha: But I bet J. K. Rowling used a spellchecker! :) –  Robusto Feb 10 '11 at 1:42

On the NOAD reports spelling checker, but it simply describes it as another term for spell-checker; spell checker is reported in the description of spell-checker as possible variant.

To spell-check (or to spell check) means to check the spelling of a text using a spell-checker; the meaning of spell-checker is reported to be a computer program that checks the spelling of words in files of text, typically by comparison with a stored list of words.

To check the spelling would have a more generic meaning that to spell check, as the latter verb implicates the use of a computer program. It is possible that, as nowadays the computer is used also as text editor, to spell check is used even when the operation has not be done with a computer (e.g., the professor has spell-checked my essay).

Searching for [check] the spelling and [spellcheck] on the Corpus of Contemporary American ([check] matches check, checks, checked) I get the following data (the values are the frequencies per million; the images can also be seen here, and here):

usage by context usage per year

The data evidences that spellcheck is used more frequently in the last 10 years.

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The image isn't showing up... –  Marthaª Feb 10 '11 at 15:04
    
That's strange: I see it. Probably it depends from its size; I will try with a smaller image. –  kiamlaluno Feb 10 '11 at 15:08
    
I see the images now. –  Marthaª Feb 10 '11 at 19:36

Spell check is a little more informal and more modern-ish of a word as a verb, but it is grammatically correct. Usually it refers to Microsoft Office Word or OpenOffice. Checking the spelling is the more uncommon of the two, but still correctly used. (Some people just use spell check instead of checking the spelling because they think it's a waste or precious breath.)

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I edited your answer to make clear that (as I suppose) when you said that "spell check" was a more informal word, you meant (as the question seemed to be asking) in its use as a verb. If that's not correct, please do edit it back. –  Matt Gutting Jun 18 at 16:50
    
As long it isn't edited so much that it strays from its only main point, I'm fine with moderators editing my answers. –  BWXY619 Jun 18 at 16:57

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