Why you shouldn't use spell checkers

« previous post | next post »

An incident yesterday at Brigham Young University, the leading academic outpost of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, provides yet another example of the pitfalls of using spelling correctors. In yesterday's Daily Universe, the student newspaper, a photograph of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second highest body in the Mormon church, was mistakenly captioned "Quorum of the Twelve Apostates". The error is attributed to a spell checker that did not recognize the word "apostle" and suggested "apostate" as a substitute, a suggestion mistakenly accepted by the editor.

Of course, if English had a decent writing system there would be no use for such software and one less source for errors.



70 Comments

  1. Mike Keesey said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

    Of course, if English had a decent writing system there would be no use for such software and one less source for errors.

    Iznn'-it a bit disinjenyuwas ta'-kampleyn abawt it bat prrsist in yuwzing it?

  2. Bexquisite said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

    I received a job application from an American woman who proudly talked about her "Bachelorette's Degree." I thought she was trying to express a feminist sentiment but it turned out that it was a case of her spell checker automatically correcting "Baccalaureate" to "Bachelorette's." Luckily, my (very proper, British) spell checker doesn't even recognise "Bachelorette's" as a valid word, let alone recommend I replace anything with it!

  3. Lazar said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

    I can't believe that a spell checker would recognize "apostate" but not "apostle" – the former word has got to be less common and more academic than the latter.

  4. Craig D said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

    When transcribing the Eagles song "Hotel California" the spellchecker on MS Word corrects the line "Warm smell of Colitas, rising up through the air" as "Warm smell of Colitis, rising up through the air".

    Not quite so poetic.

  5. Karen said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

    I'm sure they misspelled "apostle" although I'm finding it hard to come up a misspelling that puts "apostate" first. Still, their finger could have stuttered on the menu.

  6. linda seebach said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

    The apology suggests the word "apostles" was originally misspelled (doesn't say how):
    >>> In printed copies of Monday's Daily Universe, due to a spelling error in a photo caption, the word "apostles" was replaced with a different word. The Daily Universe apologizes to the Quorum of the Twelve and our readers for the error. >>>

    and
    >>> The misspelling was an unintentional error, said Rich Evans, editorial manager for The Daily Universe.

    "Our copy editor in charge of the front page, who was under deadline pressure, was using spell check on her page and had misspelled the word apostle," Evans said. "One of the first options that came up on InDesign's spell check suggestions was the word apostate. Unfortunately that's the one she clicked on. It still should have been caught by two more levels of review after that, but again with deadline looming, the worst possible thing happened."
    >>>

    from Craig Silverman,
    http://www.regrettheerror.com/newspapers/byu-student-paper-pulps-18000-copies-after-referring-to-apostates-instead-of-apostles

  7. Jem said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

    You're correct, Lazar. The NY times article that was linked has the more likely explanation: "apostate" was substituted for a misspelling of "apostle". I'm still not sure what misspelling it was. After a bit of experimentation with Word 2003, "apostatle" was the easiest string I found that Word would give "apostate" as the first suggestion for. For "apostale", it suggests both "apostle" and "apostate" in that order.

    One amusing bit from the article: the offending print run of 18,000 was physically retrieved from newsstands to be destroyed and reprinted. Apparently a next-day correction just wouldn't have done.

  8. Bloix said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    I don't see how English could have a "decent writing system" that would allow people from Jamaica, South Africa, India, and Ireland to communicate with one another.

    The only country I know of that has tried to develop a "decent writing system" is Haiti, with the result that Haitian written creole is unintelligible to all the other French-speakers of the world.

  9. HP said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

    Firefox suggests "apostate" for "apossle," but it's the second choice. The first choice is "apostle."

  10. Mikael N said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:13 pm

    By a decent writing system, do you mean something like Cyrillic? If so, I completely agree. Cyrillic is fantastic. Granted it's missing a few sounds we'd need for English, but not many, and we could just add some more letters.

  11. m said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

    Can Mormons make Freudian slips?

  12. comwave said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

    BTW, without spell checkers, "one less source for errors", but one more source for sore eyes.

    I see no fault on the side of software, but on the side of the user.

  13. Lukas said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:23 pm

    How would a decent writing system fix spell checkers that don't know about apostles?

  14. [ni:v] said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

    @Bloix: According to many, Korean appears to have a "decent writing system" ;)

  15. comwave said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

    @[ni:v]
    Right, as a Korean, Korean has a "decent writing system," in a good way. BTW, it sounds like you know Korean. Do you?

  16. Diane Chung said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

    I agree that spell checkers should not be trusted. I have run into numerous times when the spell check system has changed words that were correct into other wierd equivalents. I think Word in general is annoying, they always mark my sentences as grammatically incorrect when their corrected choices are so strange. When you do do spell check you have to really be careful and look at what you're correcting, you should never mindlessly press the change button.

  17. Mark P said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

    That one was particularly unfortunate for the paper. When I was a reporter (in a previous life), a reporter did a story about Iran and mentioned the head of the government prior to the revolution. It was misspelled, and passed at least one editor on the way to the front page of the paper, where that leader was referred to as the "Shaw of Iran." I think a spell checker might have helped in that case, but the computers the paper used the '70s didn't have them.

  18. [ni:v] said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 8:04 pm

    @comwave no, unfortunately I don't, but I've read about it! And I've heard that many linguists have commended Hangul for its regularity. Sounds fascinating!

  19. comwave said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

    @[ni:v] Thanks for quick comment. Korean has its own advantages and disadvantages, I guess.

    It will not be easy to "develop" and implement a decent writing system if the country's population is not very small. And however small it is, it is a country. Language of a nation and of a people deserves some respect in that it is also a fruit of human mind even though there may be some differences in the level of sophistication.

  20. John S. said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

    The English writing system is a much more than decent writing system for historical linguistics!

  21. comwave said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

    @John S. Seconded!

  22. John Atkinson said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

    @John S.: Surely no one doing serious historical linguistics would use the spelling of an English word as evidence without cross-checking in a decent etymological dictionary or similar. The spelling is historical, sure, in the sense that some more-or-less literate person way back when decided to use it — but much more often than one would like they got it wrong.

  23. Mark F. said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

    We don't have to assume 'apostate' came up first. The person could have easily clicked on the second suggestion by mistake and never noticed.

    I use spell checkers. I am pretty sure they introduce a lot fewer errors than they catch.

  24. Morten Jonsson said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

    I spell checkers "draughts."

    I do use a spell checker, actually. But I never accept corrections; I go into the file to fix the word.

  25. Dirk said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 9:49 pm

    From today's Deseret News: "After a day of student interviews and reviewing audit trails, Evans said he believes the gaffe ironically occurred during a spell check. The Daily Universe was using Adobe software called InDesign, which, when it found the word apostle misspelled as "apsotale," suggested "apostate" at the top of its correction list."

  26. Karen said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

    English has far too many homonyms for a phonetic spelling, and any other kind of system will render all the centuries of literature and science we have unreadable. All that will happen is that we'll have a literate class and an illiterate one … so why bother?

  27. kip said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 12:59 am

    Other people must not use spell-checkers the same way I do. If I find a word identified as misspelled, I'll look at the suggestions and see which word I meant. If I'm not sure which word it is because I don't know what some of the suggested words mean, I'll look it up. The spell-checker never automatically replaces misspellings without prompting the user first, except in a few extremely common misspellings where there is only one reasonable correction (the only one I can think of off the top of my head is "teh", which MS Word will automatically correct to "the" without a prompt).

  28. Philip said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 1:56 am

    Bill Posner: I'd really like to know what a "decent writing system' for English would look like.

  29. Philip said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 1:57 am

    Oops. Of course it's Poser, not Posner. Sorry.

  30. sore eyes said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 2:51 am

    People can use spellcheckers all they want, but I'm aghast that a copy editor would! The whole point of a copy editor is for her/him to use her/his own god-given eyeballs (and linguistic knowledge) to eyeball the god-damned text!

  31. sore eyes said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 2:55 am

    And how could one be a copy editor (of English) and not know the difference between apostle and apostate?

  32. Peter-Arno Coppen said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 3:00 am

    Part of the software corrects typing errors. That part would still be necessary with "a decent writing system," right? Furthermore, I agree with Philip: it is unclear what "a decent writing system" would look like, and, I may add, how it would have any effect on the necessity for spelling checking software. Unless you define "decent writing system" as a system that minimizes spell checker errors.

  33. Dierk said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 3:57 am

    Shaw once came up with an idea, never took hold though. Most here surely know how the English word for a water-living non-tetrapod member of the phylum Chordata could look like in current spelling [based uponphonetics].

    Ghoti,
    gh, pronounced [f] as in tough [tʌf];
    o, pronounced [ɪ] as in women [ˈwɪmɪn]; and
    ti, pronounced [ʃ] as in nation [ˈneɪʃən]

  34. Nik Berry said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 7:24 am

    If you want a language with a sensible writing system, try Turkish. Each sound is represented by just one letter, and each letter represents just one sound.

  35. Achim said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 8:17 am

    Decent writing system? Well, back in the 90's there was a spelling reform in Germany which was meant to make the writing system more decent than it was. It is a good example of how good intentions make bad results. One outcome is that the younger generation is taught a spelling system which the older generation has decided to not adopt in different degrees – a lot of private orthographies around. (Mine being one of them.)

    @ Nik Berry: I doubt that the spelling system of Turkish is perfect. I accord that some allophonic variation is reflected in the spelling system, but I am sure (albeit this is just qualified guessing) that the spelling reflects one regional / social variant of the language.

  36. Karen said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 8:32 am

    Dierk – and yet, no one ever pronounces ghoti as fish or spells fish as ghoti – because Shaw's example is absurd.

    Even so-called phonetic systems like Russian have obvious irregularities – like the G in the masc/neuter gentive ending -ogo or possesive ego (his/its) being pronounced V.

  37. Karen said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 8:34 am

    And when I say absurd, I mean that "GH" is NEVER F at the beginning of a word, nor "TI" SH except when followed by the rest of the suffix. So you can't really pretend that those are possible pronunciations in GHOTI…

  38. Arnold Zwicky said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 8:46 am

    To Dierk (and Karen) on GHOTI: see Ben Zimmer's discussion here of ""ghoti" before Shaw".

  39. outeast said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 9:48 am

    I'm pretty sure Bill Poser was being tongue-in-cheek with his call for a decent writing system.

    (If we *did* try to introduce some kind of phonetically consistent spelling system I'm pretty sure the language would fragment bigtime. The range of accents is just too vast and inconsistent for any such system to cope without creating many, many subtongues…)

  40. Ellen said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 10:23 am

    I think "a decent writing system" there means one in which there's only one way to spell each pronunciation, such as in Italian, and possibly in some versions of Spanish. Thus, no use for a spell checker. Of course, that theory ignores typos and dialect/accent variants. But, then, perhaps has Outeast suggests, Bill Poser was being tongue in cheek.

    I think dialect/accent differences generally make it impossible to have a complete one on one letter to sound correlation in a writing system for any language spoken over more than a small area. Though some languages come much closer than English.

  41. Terry Collmann said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 11:30 am

    Sore Eyes – ideally, of course, copy editors should pick up everything, but we know they don't, and I can tell you the spell checker in In Indesign has saved my posterior many more times than I like to confess to. I'd like to suggest, based on nothing more than the fact that in my professional life I hear of very, very few instances, that errors caused by people mistakenly accepting a spell checker's incorrect suggestion, are actually very rare.

  42. David Eddyshaw said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

    @Nik Berry:

    Turkish spelling does in fact have some notable quirks, notably in the writing of long vowels and of "dark" vs "light" L, where there are some far from transparent conventions to do with circumflexes and doubling of vowel symbols. Not to mention the g-with-a-upside-down-bracket in eg "yoğurt", basically carried over from Ottoman spelling in Arabic letters.

  43. Peter Kirk said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

    There is of course another possibility, that this mistake was deliberately introduced as a deliberate slur by a non-Mormon student at BYU (yes, there are some, like this lady, who I am sure is not responsible in this case), or just as a student prank, and someone decided that the best way to save face was to blame a spell checker.

  44. Irene said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

    I can't spell, but I can read. So, spell checkers are the tops for me. My spelling is so bad that often the word I want not only is not the first one recommended by the spell checker, but is not even among the choices! So, I never just select the first recommended replacement.

    Blame the editors all you want, it's still the author's responsibility. Besides, the reason the editors did not catch the error is the same reason most readers would'nt either. We see what we expect. Since most readers would be familiar with the whole phrase "Quorum of the Twelve Apostles", that's what they would see.

    And, come on LDS, lighten up. The original caption is really funny!

  45. N said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

    A few points:

    I'm pretty sure Haitian Creole can be read by Francophones if they read it phonetically, otherwise it looks crazy.

    I'm learning Russian now, and Cyrillic does seem refreshingly consistent.

    And while it's ridiculously fun to complain about the problems with English orthography, I get the impression that the people who have so much difficulty with it could have been helped with better teaching in elementary school and _reading a lot_. To this day I am the best speller among all my friends and never learned any of that i before e crap. Read and you will know how to spell almost anything.

  46. Katya said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

    Irene,

    This LDS BYU alumna thought it was hilarious (and probably not an anti-Mormon plot).

  47. Ken Grabach said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

    Say what y'all like, there is definite advantage in a spell checking system. But spell checker or no, there is also a definite advantage in reading the whole document before you publish it. A spell checker, obviously, cannot tell if a correctly spelled word is an incorrect choice in the context. Maybe, just maybe, is how this situation arose. In other words, the spell checker would not have stopped to suggest a correction, because apostate was correctly spelled, if poorly chosen. I guess even a decent writing system (what in the world is an indecent one?) requires a decent reading system installed in the eye and brain of the author, editor, typesetter, or whomever reads proofs. Someone needs to read the context, not just the words.

  48. Christy said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

    In my experience, people are less apt to see errors in phrases with which they are most familiar. If you are familiar with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, you have to work to actually read each word rather than glancing over the entire phrase as a single item. This is why good editors read everything backwards one word at a time as well as forwards for context. No matter how much talent and experience you have, well, anyone can have a bad day.

  49. Fluxor said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

    Karen wrote: English has far too many homonyms for a phonetic spelling, and any other kind of system will render all the centuries of literature and science we have unreadable. All that will happen is that we'll have a literate class and an illiterate one … so why bother?

    Funny, because I thought you were talking about Chinese for a sec there.

  50. Wordnut said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

    @N: I never became a decent speller until I became a writer, and I always read a lot. It's like learning to drive. You spend your life being carted around a town, then suddenly you get behind the wheel and you have no idea how to get anywhere.

    As a professional writer who often uses language peculiar to the industries I write for, I often must ignore the spell checker. This, over time, can lead to a false sense of my own infalibility, and eventually I dismiss spell checker at my peril.

  51. Wordnut said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    See, it should be "infallibility".

  52. alyxandr said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

    Does no one else have a problem with calling spelling checkers "spell checkers"? As far as I know, my word processor can't cast spells.

  53. Simon Cauchi said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

    @David Eddyshaw: "Turkish spelling does in fact have some notable quirks . . ."
    Yes, but it's mainly phonetic. Which, it seems to me, is a mixed blessing. Does "fayton", for example, bring English "phaeton" to mind? Only when you hear it, or see the vehicle. Look at the word as it's spelt in various other languages: phaéton (Fr.), Phaeton (Ger.), faetón (Sp.). The Turkish is furthest removed from the original, it seems to me.
    I don't know the modern Greek, but the ancient Greek is phi alpha eta theta omega nu, with an accent on the eta. So why don't the modern languages transliterate it as "phaethon"? But in English I guess the T is aspirated anyway.
    Now let me show you my photos of our trip to Büyükada.

  54. Daniel Midgley said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 8:19 pm

    Katya, I second the hilarilty.

    Always listen to the Apostates.

    This has been a massage from the Crotch of Jesus Thrust in Leather-gay Pants.

  55. Kzbad said,

    April 8, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

    First of all, this sounds like a case of "blame the machine" for human error. Poser clearly isn't interested in the reality of the case though, he likes to make ridiculous statements.

    "Of course, if English had a decent writing system there would be no use for such software and one less source for errors."

    What an utterly ludicrous comment. Show me a writing system in which humans DON'T have to learn spelling/memorization of some kind? Come on Mr. Poser, there are so many interesting posters on this blog–you can really do better than this. Write an actual substantive post about something like your personal opinion on the values of writing systems, and what makes one "decent" and what makes English NOT decent. I'm not holding my breath for this though!

  56. Stephen Jones said,

    April 9, 2009 @ 6:54 am

    Spell checkers should really be called typo checkers, as this is a necessary function they perform very well.

  57. rpsms said,

    April 9, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

    This reminds me of the time my wife misspelled "public" in "public funding" in the worst possible way.

    I happen to have InDesign (which the apology states as the offending software).

    If I run spell check on "apostale", the suggested list is ( in order):

    a post ale
    apostate
    apostle
    {…}

  58. Bridget Jack Meyers said,

    April 9, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

    Peter Kirk ~ (yes, there are some, like this lady, who I am sure is not responsible in this case)

    Heh. Certainly not me. I graduated in 2005 and never worked for The Daily Universe while I was there. When I attended BYU, only 1.14% of the students at the university were non-Mormon. I don't know what the ratio is now but it can't be all that different, BYU keeps it at around ~1% on purpose. It could have been a non-Mormon messing around, but it's pretty unlikely.

    I think the spellcheck story is probably true. Those dumb typos happened at the DU all the time.

  59. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    April 10, 2009 @ 12:06 am

    It is easy for an editor to approve an incorrect spelling with a spell-checker, particularly if the previous several words have been things like proper names that are correct, but perhaps have unusual spellings. I used to regularly run spell check on newspaper pages in Quark, and I ended up keeping a pad and paper by the mouse so I could note things I had to go back and "unfix."

    It would be very helpful if spell checkers had a "back" option to backtrack when the mousing muscle is faster than the brain.

    What a lot of non-newspaper people don't understand is that the front page is often a rush job at the end — the pressroom is waiting for the page, people are nagging the editor for it, and so the editor doing the spell check may be trying to click as fast as possible. That often gave me problems. It does help to look at the page in addition to the little spell-check box in order to decide whether to change the word, but sometimes you have to move the box to see the word.

    For those who helpfully suggest reading backward, I agree it can be a useful trick for proofreading. But the pressure to finish editing a newspaper page may not allow that kind of time. Sometimes I finished a page so close to deadline I didn't have time to click slowly enough to prevent errors, and then I would have to go back and make manual repairs, all while listening to someone say, "We don't have time for this. Just send the page. Now."

    After a few experiences with the nagging (and the follow-up memo about pressroom overtime expenses caused by your lateness), you learn when to fiddle and when to expedite things.

    I work with InCopy and InDesign now, and I have to say I am no fan of the spell checker they use. I find it is less helpful than the Quark spell check program, and it also seems to have a much smaller vocabulary and a much greater obsession with possible run-together words. A sentence like "Wastewater flowcharts show damage" may result in advice from the spell checker to write "Waste water flow charts show dam age."

  60. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    April 10, 2009 @ 12:10 am

    rpsms — There have been some editors who have seriously suggested that "public" without the "l" be flagged as a misspelling by the spell checker, just newspaper editors or designers could take a second look at it when it is in text, particularly headlines.

    I would think it could be edited out of spell checkers that allow the dictionary to be edited, but I don't know because I haven't tried that trick.

  61. Merri said,

    April 10, 2009 @ 9:47 am

    There are a few opinions that I beg not to share.

    – to Ellen : I don't think Italian writing is 100% phonemic – what about 'l' vs 'gl' ?

    – to Karen : other languages with many homonyms don't feel phonemic or quasi-phonemic writing as an obstacle. Why would English do ?
    French has found a solution : verbal forms that are homonymic to some other words take a circumflex (crû 'grown' vs. cru 'raw', dû 'owned' vs du 'of'). Strangely, it is now strongly suggested that this difference be wiped out.

    – to Bloix : what makes Haïtian Creole so strange to French eyes isn't spelling – it's syntax, e.g. the use of aspect markers. Once you've understood that 'ka' is a shortened form of 'qui a' = 'having + PART', hence a perfective marker, take your seats !

    For what a good writing for English would look like, take a look at /ADD/'s module /Desert of Desolation/.

  62. Ellen said,

    April 10, 2009 @ 11:52 am

    Merri, no, those are two different sounds. gl represents ʎ (IPA).

  63. Carrie S. said,

    April 10, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

    Ghoti,
    gh, pronounced [f] as in tough [tʌf];
    o, pronounced [ɪ] as in women [ˈwɪmɪn]; and
    ti, pronounced [ʃ] as in nation [ˈneɪʃən]

    Here's another link to why Shaw was being an ass with that, with the relevant part quoted for those who prefer not to leave LL: "Whenever the subject comes up, someone is sure to bring up all the words in -ough, or George Bernard Shaw's ghoti– a word which illustrates only Shaw's wiseacre ignorance. English spelling may be a nightmare, but it does have rules, and by those rules, ghoti can only be pronounced like goatee."

  64. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    April 10, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

    Folks, cut GBS some slack. There's no evidence that Shaw ever used ghoti, and in any case the spelling joke was circulating before Shaw was even born. You can read all about it here (as Arnold has already pointed out).

  65. Jake said,

    April 11, 2009 @ 10:53 am

    I'm guessing the mis-spelling was 'apostte' – i.e. substitute the L for a T. It is easy to accidentally type one letter twice, and the letters look so similar to each other. And the first 'correct' variant offered by MS Word is 'apostate' then 'apostle'

  66. Dierk said,

    April 12, 2009 @ 6:51 am

    To set the record straight:

    The Shaw part of my post was about the writing system for authors he devised.

    The famous 'ghoti' was only an addendum for fun; I did not attribute it to Shaw as I knew before posting this would be a a malattributition. even if I wanted to make a connection between the two it would not be what some here obviously misunderstood. If he used that one for anything himself [dubitable] it was to mock the sound->letter transcription system of English.

  67. Ellen said,

    April 12, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

    Dierk, rereading your earlier comment, it certainly reads like you are attributing the ghoti thing to Shaw. You mention Shaw coming up with an idea, then you mention that. The natural reading is to assume that that was the idea you were referring to. But now you would have us believe you mentioned Shaw having an idea, didn't bother to say anything about the idea, and then mentioned another idea, without a paragraph break, not meaning to attribute it to him? Not logic you can expect you readers to follow.

  68. Mr Fnortner said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

    Of course the fundamental problem with spell-checkers is that the more capable they become, the less capable they become. By allowing a greater number of spellings to be acceptable, more inadvertently misspelled words will slip through the screen.

  69. Dierk said,

    April 16, 2009 @ 4:05 am

    Ellen, no problem with that, my weird sense of humour wanted the ambiguity, not least to test how many infoprmed and well-educated readers jump to conclusions. Nevertheless, and although I do not like full lines as paragraph breaks but am in favour of classical style indents, I actually put a line between the Shaw and the joke.

    Another reason for the ambiguity I chose: I find the proposed spelling reform in its radicalness as funny as the silly ghoti joke.

    For those interested, Kingsley Read's 'Shavian' alphabet [based upon Shaw's rules] can be found on page 277 of David Crystal's The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, CUP, 1995.

  70. Janice Huth Byer said,

    October 8, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

    Bexquisite, your American job applicant, who "boasted" of having a "bachelorette" instead of a "baccalaureate' didn't use an American spell-checker. Are you Yanking our leg?

RSS feed for comments on this post