Friday, April 20, 2007
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.
- Did you mean: Tahoe
- Did you mean: Reno
- Did you mean: san luis 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."