Myths About Automatic Spell Checkers in the Age of Semantic Technology

How many times have we heard statements like these on “poor automatic spell checkers”? In the age of semantic technology it is time to change attitude:


1. The automatic spell checker corrects things that should not… The know-it-all

Has the spell checker ever cheated you? In order to avoid it, you just need to configure it in the right way. You must be sure that it is proofreading in the correct language (in Portuguese livro is not a ‘book’!) and that, if were, the option “Autocorrect” is not selected. We must not lose control over the proofreading process! By following some advice, you will avoid that the application will give you unpleasant surprises.

Damn spell checker! A misunderstanding causes the closing of two schools in Georgia

Someone sent the following message: “Gunna be at west hall today”, that is to say: “Today I will be at West Hall”. However, the automatic spell checker didn’t work properly and sent the following message: “Gunman be at west hall today”, that is to say: “Armed man in the West Hall today”. Moreover, the person who sent the message dialed the wrong number and sent it to another recipient. As a consequence, who received the message got scared and went to the police, who, for security reasons, considered closing the two schools of the area. [Continue reading…]

ticmitos With Stilus…

With Stilus you will be safe from embarrassing situations. You will proofread texts without losing control over changes.

  • Set the language of proofreading (Spanish, English, French or Italian).
  • Consider suggestions justified with didactic explanations and bibliography before correcting.
  • Be aware of the proofreading process and do not publish anything you wouldn’t have wanted to write.



2. My last name is “Jahuira” and not “Jauría”!

It is true, it is impossible for a spell checker to contain in its dictionary all the existing or potential proper nouns. However, we can minimize the consequences of this gap by taking into account the following aspects:

a)   They are applications which usually include an editable personal dictionary in which is possible to add words that are not recognizable beforehand.

b)   The wider the lexical database of the corrector, the easier the edition of the personal dictionary will be. That is to say, it is convenient to dedicate some time to the choice of tools with good lexical coverage.

c)   You should not lose sight of other features they may offer in order to minimize annoying warnings about proper nouns (read the options of Stilus).

Spell checker (damn)

Some time ago I wrote in the blog a review on a novel that hadn’t been published yet. A couple of days ago, someone brought me the printed novel and my name was there in the prologue: MISSPELLED.

I almost cried. The spell checker played a bad trick on me: my maternal surname JAHUIRA had been changed with JAURÍA.

I didn’t correct it because nobody had said me that that text would have been the prologue. There was only the ERRATA SHEET attached. [Continue reading…]


ticmitosWith Stilus…

With Stilus proper nouns will not be a problem.

  • It includes a lexical database with more than 9,5 million words, of which 160,000 are proper nouns.
  • It is constantly updated with neologisms, names of personalities, organizations, countries, etc. that emerge in the contemporary social landscape.
  • However, if you don’t want Stilus to inform you that it doesn’t recognize a noun, select the option “Automatic recognition of proper nouns” and from that moment no name will be a problem.




3. They don’t know how to differentiate monosyllabic words with double meaning

At this stage, it’s not possible to make such rigid statements anymore. Even Microsoft Word’s well-known spell checker can detect with precision more than 50% of the mistakes resulting from accentuation or spelling of homophones.

It is true that in the past century spell checkers only detected mistakes in words that were not included in their dictionary. Even if a word was part of their dictionary, they were not able to recognize whether the author had made a mistake for using a homophone or a monosyllabic word without accent in place of the same one with accent.

Nowadays there are automatic spell checkers that are able to eliminate any ambiguity according to the syntactic context. Semantic disambiguation is getting foothold too and it broadens the possibilities that grammar already offers. Next, an example in Spanish dealing with the homophones vaca (‘cow’) and baca (‘roof rack’):

 La *vaca del coche estaba mal colocada –> *baca

‘Cow’ (vaca) has nothing to do with ‘car’ (coche)

‘Roof rack’ is the appropriate term instead.


In short, at the moment not all automatic spell checkers are just simple comparators of formal spelling. There are the smart ones too.

In this text in Spanish there are twelve mistakes. Do you know how many of them are detected by Microsoft Word’s spell checker? Find out yourself, it’s easy!

– No se si lo sabia, pero mi mujer no esta.

– ¡Que pena!, ¿sé toma usted un café con migo?

– ¿Sabe cuanto bale?

– Si. Un euro y el te, dos.

– Prefiero te, gracias.

– Dé nada.


ticmitosWith Stilus…

Stilus it’s an intelligent spell checker based on linguistic context, which permits an advanced proofreading of texts.

  •  Syntactic and semantic disambiguation makes it possible to detect mistakes that other automatic spell checkers usually cannot detect… [Continue reading…]
  • Microsoft Word: 7 – Stilus: 10

Try it for free on our website:

– No se si lo sabia, pero mi mujer no esta.

– ¡Que pena!, ¿sé toma usted un café con migo?

– ¿Sabe cuanto bale?

– Si. Un euro y el te, dos.

– Prefiero te, gracias.

– Dé nada.



 4. They obviously detect some spelling issues, but as far as grammar is concerned they are quite unprepared!

If we have just demonstrated that latest-generation spell checkers are able to eliminate ambiguities according to the syntactic context, why do they don’t know anything about grammar?revision gramatical stilus



5. There’s no need to correct punctuation…

It depends on the integrated correction modules. Although it’s true that it’s absurd to conceive a computer program as a personal linguistic consultant as if it were a human proofreader, many of the rules stressed in typography and style handbooks are entirely feasible from the point of view of programming.

Of course, automatic spell checkers that suggest “to put commas or not” do exist.stilus revisa puntuacion


ticmitosWith Stilus…

Stilus revises many typographic aspects.

  • Verifies the opening and the closing of pairs of signs (inverted commas, parentheses, brackets, exclamation and question signs…).
  • Checks spacing: double spaces, lack of spacing or adjacency between orthographic signs and words, etc.
  • Warns about unnecessary or mistaken punctuation sequences.
  • Corrects the punctuation of abbreviations.
  • Checks uppercase or lowercase use.
  • Suggests the correct use of italics for foreign terms.
  • Recommends the insertion or the abolition of commas in precise contexts.
  • Etc.



6. What happens with style checking?

Style checking is subtler and includes many issues that a tool hardly can control (just think about textual consistency and cohesion or conversational ambiguities). However, we must not underrate the capacities of computational linguistics because they can help us more than we think in the field of style checking! Nowadays, spell checkers are able to detect:

  • Spelling not recommended
  • Misused expressions (solecisms and barbarisms)
  • Expressions not recommended
  • Lexical improprieties
  • Lexical, syntactic or semantic foreignisms
  • Redundant expressions
  • Mistakes in the prepositional regency
  • Mistakes in the correlation between verbal tenses (consecutio temporum)
  • Queísmos and dequeísmos (for Spanish language)
  • Repetitions
  • Colloquialisms and vulgarisms
  • Etc.

Generally, 80% of the information included in a style handbook can potentially be processed by automatic spell checkers. Moreover, text technologies begin to show significant results in semantic disambiguation and in the detection of anaphoras and references (try Stilus’ morphosyntactic analyzer). Therefore, considerable progresses in the detection of textual ambiguities are expected in the near future; don’t get caught unprepared!


ticmitosWith Stilus…

Stilus: spell, grammar and style checker

Stilus permits to check spelling and style in texts in several languages. It operates according to the user’s linguistic preferences and with an average computer equipped with a standard browser or Microsoft Word.



7. “Spell checkers are the worst thing that has ever been invented, they are for dunces…”

corrector crea asnosAre you sure? If we refer to a quality application and regardless auto-correction, an automatic spell checker leaves the user the decision of accepting any correction and it encourages Meaningful self-learning. This means that if the spell checker suggests and you decide, you can easily improve your writing skills.




ticmitosWith Stilus…

Stilus spell checker, supporting spelling learning

It’s quite common that teachers have a bad opinion about spell and grammar checkers because they are usually associated to automatic correction; furthermore, they believe that pupils may end up not being able to detect the mistakes they make and, consequently, not knowing how to correct them… [Continue reading…]



8. In conclusion, do automatic spell checkers only annoy us?

Are you familiar with every single rule contained in a style handbook or Oxford’s rules of spelling? Is a native really bothered by a false warning about syntactic harmony? If an application can perform tedious tasks, wouldn’t it been convenient? Perhaps we would better asking ourselves all these questions before refusing automatic spell checking. Taking advantage of the potentialities offered by technology is often worthy.

Mónica Castelló, proofreader: “After all they are programmed tools with a scope similar to ours, from which we can benefit…”. Human proofreader vs. Automatic spell checker.


ticmitosWith Stilus…

Stilus is an innovative spell checker

The semantic technology of Daedalus has been successfully applied in the corporative sphere: Spanish media groups Prisa, Unidad Editorial, Vocento or the Cervantes Institute use it to write, edit and classify news or for advanced research and recovery of multimedia information.

With Stilus, Daedalus addresses to professionals (proofreaders, translators, publishers, professors) and freelance. [Continue reading…]



Have we convinced you that automatic spell checking deserves a second chance? If the answer is yes and you’d like to explore the potentialities of textual verification today, try the new Stilus for freewww.mystilus.comyou will change your mind!

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