What if they can't spell?

Subject: What if they can't spell?
From: Bevan Mccabe <BMccabe -at- ALTIO -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2001 11:28:23 +0100


I was thinking, there's a lot of people out there who can't spell. Can we
account for them when designing help systems and manuals?

When using an index to look up information, most literate people will know
at least the first two letters of a word, and will see the correctly spelt
entry nearby in the list, and go to that.

But with natural-language questions and technology for online help like the
Microsoft Office Assistant or Wextech Answer Works, I don't know whether
these recognise misspelt words, and when using these types of tools, if you
enter a key word that it doesn't recognise, it won't know to tell you that
you misspelt the word. As far as it is concerned, you entered a word it
didn't recognise, regardless of whether it has only one letter wrong.

I don't know exactly what kind of recognition ability this technology has
nowadays, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
I believe some of this technology recognises synonyms, but that is a
separate issue.

What would happen in this situation? Would a user get frustated, give up
and call support? Or would they realise they spelt the word wrong and try

With an index, you could conceivably add common misspellings (hmm, did I
spell that right? :-) of words to accomodate these situations. However, I
wouldn't want to do that, as it would lessen the time I have for more
important tasks, and users might get the impression that their misspelling
is in fact correct.

I presume there is some data out there for commonly misspelled words.
Are there any other situations where the user's difficulty with spelling
might prevent them from getting the help they need? Any ideas for solutions?

Bevan McCabe
Technical Author, Altio
T: +44(0) 20 8580 4538
F: +44(0) 20 8580 2050
bmccabe -at- altio -dot- com


A landmark hotel, one of America's most beautiful cities, and
three and a half days of immersion in the state of the art:
IPCC 01, Oct. 24-27 in Santa Fe. http://ieeepcs.org/2001/

+++ Miramo -- Database/XML publishing automation. See us at +++
+++ Seybold SFO, Sept. 25-27, in the Adobe Partners Pavilion +++
+++ More info: http://www.axialinfo.com http://www.miramo.com +++

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit
http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/ for more resources and info.


Previous by Author: RE: Single Source the cheap and dirty way
Next by Author: MS Word page break macro
Previous by Thread: RE: Blurry printed image (not a screen shot)
Next by Thread: Re: What if they can't spell?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads