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How to Check Names Spellings in a Research Paper

Jan K., The Proofer -- Is it "John Smythe" or "John Smyth"? Here's how to avoid embarrassing name misspellings in your next college paper or publication.

Whether you are doing a term paper for high school or you are working on your doctoral thesis, you will be creating a list of references (or bibliography) of the resource materials and other published works that you have cited in your paper. Here is an easy tip for avoiding misspelling the names throughout the paper.

Once you have written your paper, and your list of references (bibliography) is done, do the following:

1. Run spellcheck on ONLY the References/Bibliography section of your paper. To do this, position the cursor on the first reference. Start the spellchecker.

2. The spellchecker will STOP at every name that isn't in your computer's built-in dictionary. It may suggest another spelling, so be sure to proceed cautiously to Step 3.

3. Check that you have spelled that name correctly, as it appears in the reference/bibliography entry. That is, refer to your source material and check the spelling as shown in your paper. Correct if/as necessary.

4. When you are confident that the spelling is correct, click "Add to dictionary" so that spellcheck adds that name, as you have it spelled, to your computer's dictionary (the spellchecker button will read either "Add to dictionary" or some other word that indicates that you can add or include that word/name in your computer's dictionary).

5. Continue to the end of your References/Bibliography section, verifying and/or correcting spelling as necessary. Add each name to your computer's dictionary as you go, after you have re-verified that you have it spelled properly.

6. When the spellcheck of your References section is complete, STOP the spellchecker. That is, once the spellchecker has finished the references/bibliography section, it will automatically continue spellchecking at the beginning of the next page or section of your text. The first time that it stops after checking the references/bibliography, simply "Close" the spellchecker.

When you run spellcheck on the final version of your paper, the spellchecker will now automatically catch any name misspellings in your paper. For example, let's say that the author's name, correctly spelled as in the References/Bibliography section is "Smythe" but you have it spelled "Smyth" in your paper. The spellchecker will stop at "Smyth" and it will suggest that the correct spelling is "Smythe." You can then choose the correct spelling and make change to your text.

When the spellchecker stops on a name that it doesn't recognize, first determine whether it is a name that should be in your references/bibliography (that is, you've got a citation in your paper for which no reference/bibliography entry is included). If it should be, and it isn't, you can add the appropriate entry. If the name doesn't need to be in your references/bibliography (that is, it is a common name or does not represent a work that you are citing) and the spellchecker stops on it, simply verify that it is spelled correctly from whatever source documents you have. Once you know that it is spelled correctly, then add it to your computer's dictionary. Now if it is used again in this text or in any other text you write, your spellchecker will check the spelling for you.

Continue to spellcheck your entire document. If you have supplemental documents (such as tables or appendices) that are separate from your research paper, then be sure to run spellcheck on those files as well. You should always run a final spellcheck after you have made the last correction to your paper. Run spellcheck repeatedly if you continue to revise or update your text.

This tip will help you avoid embarrassing name misspellings in your text.

Jan K., The Proofer is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. Visit Jan's Portal for more information about Jan's free crafts, recipes, tutorials, other resource sites, and free content articles, as well as Jan's business services. Be sure to visit Mom's Break for free printable crafts and projects.

© 2008 Jan K., The Proofer

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