Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tech Column: You Versus Your, We Have a Winner!

by Bill Adler

 From Wordstar to Wordperfect to Microsoft Word, there have been major advances in word processing. In the early days of word processing you couldn't even see what the page would look like on paper. It was a giant step forward when WYSIWYG was developed: What you see is what you get. Around the same time spell checkers were becoming an integrated part of word processing programs.

Now we not only get what we see when it comes to printed word processing pages, but we can make masterpieces of design. We can even make entire books. But one thing we can't do is rely on our word processor to spell check the difference between you and your.

How many times have you missed the typing mistake in something like, "He said to the mysterious woman whose face was illuminated by the soft late afternoon light through the library window, 'Excuse me. May I take a look at you book?'"


Google now deploys contextual spell checking to Google Docs. Google Docs www.docs.google.com, is smart now, just like Google itself, with the familiar "Did you mean?" that appears when you mistype a search term. Google's bots crawl the web for language use, making Google's spell checker better and smarter all the time. Google's web crawler looks for and finds contemporary pop usage, such as "malemployed."

I've waited a long time for a spell checker that can not only spot spelling mistakes, but can tell me when I've misused a word. "Let's meat at a coffee shop after work" has met its match. No more "Where is there house?"

While I'm on the subject of spell checking and creating error-free documents, I want to mention another way to use technology for proofing your writing: Have your computer read your document out loud to you. There are a lot of text-to-speech programs that you can download and use on the web. Some are free, some you have to pay for. I often use Google Translate, www.translate.google.com, to read out loud to me. Just pop in your text and press the sound icon in the English box and Google will read back what you wrote. Hearing the words read aloud is your best bet for spotting typos that prefer not to be found.

The You Versus Your war has been won. Finally.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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