Thursday, November 19, 2009

Are you myopic with your spelling?

OK, I just had to write that headline. Most people really do get into their spelling habits and if their spelling is challenged, you can get into a pretty good argument. With my dictionary work I take a different tack. The Kelvin dictionary is my preferred spelling. I've spent hundreds of hours researching the preferred spelling in Australia and made decisions based on that research. The spelling is how I now spell. I often find I need to change my spelling habits based on the outcome of my research. How others spell is up to them.

Now I mentioned the word myopic, because whilst it does mean narrow-minded, it is also another word for short-sighted. When I researched the word myopic I felt it showed a little about what I'm trying to achieve with my work and I thought that was worth sharing.

The current spellchecking tools we have in many ways aren't helping us, and could be hurting us and our children's spelling. This is true for commercial and open source software.

Type the following into your favourite word processor or browser (assuming the browser has spellchecking) and see what your spellchecker does.


- Most software will suggest spell check. This is an incorrect spelling for Australia. However this usage is now so common (by around 26:1), it may end up be the correct spelling in time. Microsoft Word 2007 suggests spell check and spell-check. Both are wrong in Australia. The correct spelling is spellcheck. (For those who are interested, the correct American spelling is spell-check.)

shortsighted, short-sighted, shortsightedness, short-sightedness

- The correct spelling is short-sighted. For short-sightedness the Macquarie and Oxford dictionaries agree on the spelling. If you type in shortsighted, Microsoft Word 2007 will suggest both short sighted and short-sighted.

nearsighted, near-sighted, nearsightedness, near-sightedness

- The correct spelling is near-sighted. The Oxford dictionary suggests near-sightedness and the Macquarie suggests nearsightedness, as the correct spelling. Microsoft Word will accept all spelling variations and is thus incorrect with nearsighted.

What then is the correct spelling of nearsightedness/near-sightedness?

We can check usage in Australia, but the problem is the main tool people use for writing in Australia is Microsoft Word. The good thing is near-sighted has greater usage in Australia which makes that word easy. For nearsightedness/near-sightedness usage is low, but the version used most often is nearsighted.

If we check the dictionaries for far-sightedness and long-sightedness we find the Macquarie and Oxford agree with the word being hyphenated.

For consistency, and because in all other forms the hyphenated version is used, with the Kelvin dictionary, the hyphenated version of the word is included. The words nearsighted and nearsightedness are also added to the Microsoft Exclude file, so they will now appear as spelling errors for anyone using my Exclude file when the next version is released.

For a bit of fun, you might want to try typing the following into your word processor, or browser.

The room had a lovely vu.
I went to the school fait.

I think you'll be quite surprised with the result. One person asked me what black magic had I performed on their computer. They couldn't believe the result.

- Kelvin Eldridge

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