English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I can't remember the exact place I saw this (but I believe it was on another StackExchange site), but when someone was commenting on a software's "spell check" function, they said something to the effect of:

A spell check is something I do with my local coven, a spelling check is what I do when I'm reviewing a written document.

Is it more correct to say:

This paper is horrible! You didn't even use a spelling check.

as opposed to

You didn't even use a spell check.


share|improve this question
I think that automated spell(ing) checkers are recent enough tools that there's room for language to evolve. It may be too soon to say a definitive "more correct" answer has been established. – J.R. Oct 29 '12 at 10:00
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I would say that I check the spelling of my papers by using the spell check function on my word processor. One describes the process, the other describes the computer function.

share|improve this answer
I like this the best because it makes the most sense to me. I understand you to say that "spell check" is not correct simply because of grammer, but describes a function and is therefore a noun. – NickO Oct 30 '12 at 2:59

Spell is recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary as a noun used colloquially to mean ‘a way or mode of spelling a word’. That would suggest that the answer to your question is not that spelling check is more ‘correct’ than spell check, but that it is more formal.

share|improve this answer
Very interesting. One reason why I asked was because I haven't heard anybody use "spelling check" before. Perhaps I should read more high brow stuff! – NickO Oct 30 '12 at 2:58

We would say 'spell check' exclusively in the sense of using a spelling check(-er/ -ing) software, and 'spelling check' in a generic sense.

That is the convention.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.