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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.

?

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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
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3 Answers

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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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