From time to time, our own T.V. Raman shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see -- tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful. - Ed.

English spelling is far from being phonetic -- and commonly-used proper nouns make the problem even more complex. Often the final arbiter is "it looks correct." Try writing "success" with one trailing "s" and you'll see what I mean.

This final aspect of spelling -- it "looks wrong" -- can be a serious challenge when one cannot see. I can spell well in English, and for regular English text, there are always dictionaries and spell-checkers that come to one's aid. But spelling commonly-used proper nouns that you've only heard others pronounce can still pose a challenge when writing them for the first time. Consider the following:
  • We're going on a skiing holiday to Taho.
  • I was in Rino last week.
  • My friend lives in San Luis Obispoe.
Notice that the proper nouns in the above all contain spelling errors, and the respective Google search triggers a "did you mean" spelling suggestion as follows:
  • Did you mean: Tahoe
  • Did you mean: Reno
  • Did you mean: san luis obispo
Over the years, I've come to find this an indispensible tool, especially in cases where there is general agreement on the web as to the correct spelling. And for the record, intelligence on the Web appears to believe that San Luis Obispo can also be spelt San Louis Obispo.

Google's spell-checking intelligence comes from examining all the documents on the web. Thus, correct spellings often dominate incorrect ones. The example of San Luis Obispo is interesting; if you take the Web as representing current accepted practice, it would appear that people do write that proper noun both ways -- i.e., Luis or Louis.

Who knows, perhaps we'll restore the o-u parity by adopting an extra "o" in Luis for the "u" that got dropped in "color."