Dear Steve,

I love this story.  I will give it to all my classes when I tell them that if the
spell checker introduces wrong words, they as editors are responsible.
The first thing I had done to my computer was to have the spell checker
and grammar checker turned off.  The latter are even worse.  I saw over the
Administrative Assistant's shoulder once a mass of red and green
squiggles and asked what they were for.  She said they flagged errors.
Astonished, I read what they flagged.  The machine was changing all my
restrictive clauses to nonrestrictive ones.  I immediately changed them all
back.  That is an interesting example of the limits of machines.  Since a
large percentage of clauses are one or the other depending on the author's
intent and not on any requirement, no computer can, even in theory, know
which is called for.  And the meanings are quite different.  Since the
computer is a binary system, it only knows A or B.  It has no nuance.
(Jacek--so much here to snipe at, enjoy.)

Date sent:              Tue, 20 May 2003 14:16:48 -0400
Send reply to:          "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From:                   [log in to unmask]
Subject:                Spelling checkers (was: Barbarians at the Gates)
To:                     [log in to unmask]

In a message dated 5/20/2003 10:22:42 AM Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

> Spell checkers cannot, which is why they are
> such an annoyance.  They only know if a
> word is a word and sometimes not even that.
> They split compound words, reject names,
> and change words to what they recognize--
> one changed my word "clitoridectomy"
> to "coldheartedness."  An amusing
> slip but really not what I needed to write.

My favorite spelling checker horror story actually happened to me. I had
just formed a new company with several people, and the partners didn't
really know (or fully trust) each other. I had written a long letter to the CEO
of the company, a man by the name of Fred Jacobs. Since I'm a terrible
speller, I tended to blindly hit accept for all the changes recommended by
the spelling checker. It's a good thing I decided to proofread the letter one
final time, because I was about to send a letter to the CEO (and to all the
partners) addressed to Fraud Jackass.

-- Steve --