Have you ever seen the spell checker poem? It’s a funny poem meant to highlight the shortcomings of computer assisted writing technology. Here it is:
The Spelling Chequer (or poet tree without mist takes)
Eye have a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marks four my revue
Miss steaks eye cannot see
Each thyme when I have struct the quays
Eye weight four it two say
If watt eye rote is wrong or rite
It shows me strait a weigh
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore too late
And eye can put the error rite
Eye really fined it grate
I’ve run this poem threw it
I’m sure your policed to no
It’s letter perfect in its weigh
My chequer tolled me sew
– Author Unknown
Oh a whim I decided to run this through Microsoft Office, Firefox, and After the Deadline. Care to see how well they do?
Firefox vs. The Spell Checker Poem
Firefox does the worst of the three. The suggestion for the word Chequer is “Chewer” and struct is not flagged to the right word. This is understandable because Firefox’s spellchecker does not look at the surrounding words when providing suggestions.
Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac vs. The Spell Checker Poem
Here are the results for Microsoft Word. I build all my technology on an ancient Powerbook so this is the best I have. Here Microsoft Word 2004 suggests the word Chaucer for Chequer. And don’t let the fancy green underlining fool you, the grammar checker is useless here too. The recommendation for “Eye have” is “Eye has”. I think a mist ache is my favorite as the grammar checker suggests mists ache. So it is a toss up here who is doing worse Firefox or Microsoft Word.
I’d like to be fair though. The newest version of Microsoft Word includes a contextual spellchecker that is supposed to catch the kind of errors contained in this poem.
After the Deadline vs. The Spell Checker Poem
Two of the claim to fame features in After the Deadline are contextual spellchecking and real word misuse detection. I don’t claim perfection in my real word misuse detection but this poem is a good example of how it works. See for yourself:
All the flagged words actually have the correct word as the first suggestion. I’m asked all the time why does After the Deadline matter? We have Microsoft Office and our browser has spell check, right?
And now, for a shameless plug…
After the Deadline is a software service that adds grammar, style, and spell checking to web applications. You can embed it or download a plugin for common applications. A plugin for WordPress is available at http://www.afterthedeadline.com and you can try it at http://www.polishmywriting.com