10 August, 2011
Since spelling and grammar checkers don't test consistency, documents can seem to be error-free and yet still contain lots of mistakes. Consistency mistakes are notoriously difficult for authors to spot, but they jump out at readers and cast doubt on the author's ability.
Consistency mistakes come in many forms. This article looks at only spelling and hyphenation consistency. For example:
There are exceptions. Hyphens depend on context and spelling differences may occur within reference lists or quotes. However, these are often mistakes and need to be checked.
Most people think they write consistently. However, the facts prove otherwise. We used PerfectIt, Intelligent Editing's add-in for MS Word, to test over 3000 documents (randomly selected with the Google search term 'final report') to determine the frequency of these errors. The results are staggering. The chart below shows the number of consistency errors we found in each document.
The results show that for documents between:
Of the 186 documents we tested that were over 10,000 words, every single one had at least one consistency issue. Since some inconsistencies are intentional (and correct), these are not all necessarily mistakes. However, the proportion with many consistency issues is alarming and suggests there are a lot of errors. We found that one in four documents over 1500 words contain five or more hyphenation/spelling inconsistencies. In documents over 10,000 words, that ratio rose to 94%.
Though difficult for authors to spot, these mistakes are actually easy to catch with the right software. Intelligent Editing offer a scaled-back version of PerfectIt called Consistency Checker that runs as either an app for Office 2013 or an add-on for Google Docs. Consistency Checker is completely free to use and provides a report that lists every hyphenation and spelling inconsistency in your document. To try it:
There's no installation required, just press 'Scan' to begin.Consistency Checker is completely free. If you're on a tight budget then it's a great way to get access to some of PerfectIt's checking.