W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org > March 1999

Re: Spell checkers [was Re: complexity

From: Silas S. Brown <ssb22@cam.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 06:31:45 +0000
To: w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org
Message-Id: <E10Io98-0007h2-00@violet.csi.cam.ac.uk>
> It never occurred to me with all the effort we go through to add ALT text that it's
> an actual problem for some folks.

Needless to say I still recommend adding ALT text, because it's a lot 
easier to get a program to take it out than it is to get one to put it 

> I personally find spelling checkers very helpful.

I'm glad you do.  Of course, you're American so you have a much wider 
choice than I do.  Few spelling checkers can handle British spelling, 
and American ones are so very annoying - they flag what seems like every 
word for correction, when the words are actually correct in the UK.  The 
other thing is very often a spelling checker does not know all the words 
I use, especially technical terms, local place names etc and when 
checking a large document it gets on my nerves to sit here for nearly an 
hour saying "Yes, that's OK", "Yes computer, that's OK", "YES!  THAT'S 
OK!!!!"  I don't think it's worth it for correcting the mistakes I do
make, unless it's absolutely imperitive that those mistakes get 
corrected (in which case I also read through the document by hand, 

I sometimes find some real 'howlers' in documents written by ESLs 
(people who speak English as a second language) who have spell-checked 
them and their checkers have missed the homonyms, or they have chosen 
the spelling checker's nearest alternative to their guessed word.  
Checkers tend to be geared to the 'typo' kind of mistake, rather than to 
people who are learning English, so the latter don't benefit that much 
(they may think they do but if you look at what they produce...)  And 
there's nothing like auto-correction to mess up a document completely.  
Eg. a while ago a recorder group were playing a piece by Don Murray and 
the programme said Doom Murkey.  Spelling checkers may be useful, but 
you should be careful of blindly accepting their output!  (One online 
version of the Constitution of the PRC referrs to itself in one of the 
articles as a Constipation)

Grammar checkers do exist, but I don't think they are yet at the useful 
level.  They do catch some mistakes, but they often catch things that 
are not mistakes and very often let through things that are.  What 
usually happens is they check your input against a set of rules that was 
written by the programmer, or Microsoft Research or something, which 
only approximates the rules of English.  They are most infuriating when 
they suggest corrections that make a sentence much worse than it is; I 
find that about 90% of the suggestions given by Word's grammar checker 
are total rubbish, so I stopped using it ages ago.


-- Silas S Brown, St John's College Cambridge UK http://epona.ucam.org/~ssb22/

"Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his lifespan?" - Matthew
Received on Friday, 5 March 1999 01:31:45 UTC

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