Has spell check changed usage? I type the word "theatre" often; even here while I am typing it is underlined in red, yet Americans who direct, produce, or act in theatre prefer the older spelling.

It's the same with the past perfect, in this example: "By the time he arrived in Chicago, he had had enough sleep in the train to explore the town." Here there is no red underline for "had had," but both Microsoft Word and WordPerfect warn me about them.

How has prescriptive grammar been changed by software companies? How has descriptive grammar been changed by them?

  • Your '... even here it is underlined in red' is using 'here' in an unhelpful way. If you change your word processor or settings, you can doubtless manage to get 'theater' flagged. Even if you're on your way to Timbuktu. // But yes, Word is influential (though textspeak etc are probably more so). So much is fairly obvious; asking for an estimate of how influential such rule-dictators are would be being too subjective here. Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 22:00
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    You ask, "Will spell check change usage?" It is an interesting question but, apart from the fact that it asks us to predict the future, it asks for our opinion. Unfortunately that is off-topic in ELU. I'll therefore vote to close. Quote from Site Tour: Not all questions work well in our format. Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers. Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 22:22
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    Certainly we get many questions here along the lines of "Is xyz a real word? My spell checker doesn't recognize it." Very likely, computerized checkers (if they continue current trends) will tend to "narrow" the language used by those who care about literacy but are not highly literate (while many of the barely literate will continue to ignore the formalities of English). This is a shame, as it will, in a sense, suppress the linguistic "middle class" -- a group that one would rather hope to encourage.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 23:13
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    One instance that I asked about at EL&U a couple of years ago involved the spelling-checker-approved word smoothes, which grew rapidly in popularity in the 1990s—in part (I suspect) because at that time Microsoft Word identified it as the correct spelling and smooths as the incorrect spelling of the third-person singular form of the verb smooth. See "Smooths" versus "Smoothes" for a detailed discussion of that question.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 23:52
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    chasly from UK, Drew, Mitch, Chenmunka, tchrist: I was instructed to ask a question in order to earn points here; it was hard to think of one, since I have proficiency in English grammar. I did think of this one, and my question was put on hold. I can think of no better way to discourage new users. I won't be asking more questions. I suppose ANY question I might pose would be disqualified as "opinion based." Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 21:23

1 Answer 1


I prefer not to use the auto correct facility in word processing programs. You could either change your default settings to change whether or not to use the auto check or you could add the word to your dictionary.

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