Sunday Scribblings: Spelling


I’ve always been good at spelling—in my head, that is. What comes out from the ends of my fingers on a keyboard isn’t always pretty, which is why writing with Microsoft Word (or other word processors over the years) has been extremely frustrating.

Oh, not ordinary letters or memos or business process documentation. No, spell-checkers do quite well with those. The frustration comes because most of the things I’ve written since I was 14 years old have involved SCIENCE. It was bad enough when I wrote slowly with a pen or a typewriter. It’s even worse now. There isn’t a software spell-checker anywhere that is worth a damn when it comes to scientific terminology.

You see, even when I type the genus of the California Condor (Gymnogyps) correctly, Microsoft Word insists that I must mean Gymnasium.

And Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)? Word wants to change it to cyanide. Not quite the same thing, is it? (If you answered “Yes” to that, I hope you don’t work in a hospital or nursing home.)

Fast forward through years of spell-check-induced invective to last December, when I discovered John Petrie’s blog. Mr. Petrie (Dr. Petrie?) is apparently a scientific editor. (Don’t try to read his About page. Just…don’t. There are more reliable clues to his career on some of the other pages.)

Mr. Petrie is my hero. Why? Because he has assembled a custom scientific dictionary for Microsoft Word that includes more than 600,000 scientific terms. Biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics. Genus/species, drug names, diseases and treatment methods. It’s all there, and he’s giving it away free.

Go look at it. Download it. And while you’re there, check the sidebar for links to some really interesting language blogs.

About Kat

Cat lover, singer, early music addict, reads a lot. Former R&D chemist with an obsessive need for variety. Now active as a freelance technical writer and editor, web designer, photographer, computer coach, and trainer. Owner, MasterWork Consulting (
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