This blog is the first one in the two blogs series: the first explaining the difficulties facing a spell checker designed for the people with dyslexia and the second blog discussing developing of a word prediction writing system for those people.
Generally speaking, developing a spell checker is a relatively simple task. All you need to do is to figure out whether a word is in dictionary and if not to suggest valid words with similar spelling. This problem sounds simple, and it is indeed simple if the following conditions are met:
The correct word you are looking for has the same number of letters as the misspelled word, or the user made only one spelling mistake.
Thus, all you need to do is to find words that have one letter difference from the word the user misspelled (edit distance is equal to 1) and present them in a way easy for the user to choose from. That could be accomplished, for example, by sorting the suggested words by their frequencies of language usage.
Unfortunately, the above pattern, equal size words and a single error, does not fit the needs of dyslexics (samples of “dyslexic” writing) since in many cases people with dyslexia misspell a word with non-equal length word, and in most cases their spelling is a phonetic spelling with multiple errors.
The challenging task is to correct a misspelled word when you don’t know neither the number of letters in the real word nor the number of errors. It is clear, however, that in order to cope with this more complex task, dyslexia spelling software shall simulate human way of thinking.
To correct a badly spelled text, we read the entire text, comprehend it, mark the words that are spelled incorrectly, and suggest corrections based on the entire text context and the grammar rules. This is a very complicated path to follow for just a piece of software!
Try Ghotit and see how it works!
Every time I use a regular spell checker it hits me that the people who designed these spell checkers did not have in mind people like me, people who suffer from dyslexia and have really bad spelling. When I use a regular spell checker I receive a word which is underlined in red and I am faced with one of the following problems:
- My intended word is not in the suggestions list. This is because my spelling was too far away from the correct spelling (meaning I spell REALLY badly), and the spellchecker simply could not pick up on my intended word.
- My intended word is in the suggestions list, but since I am such a bad speller, I have no idea how to select the correct word from the list.
Misused words, words that are spelled correctly but are not the words I intended to write, are also a major issue. I encounter misused words either by entering the misused word originally or selecting a misused (wrong) word from the spell checker’s word suggestion list. I then send these sentences with the misused words out to the world without even knowing what nonsense I have just written. For example, many times I have invited business colleagues for a “Mating” instead of a “Meeting”… I tried all available spellchecking and writing assistance technologies, but none seemed to work for me. After discussing the regular spell checkers limitations with many dyslexics, we began to think and design a spell checker specifically targeting the dyslexic community. Such a spell checker would include the following key capabilities:
- A spellchecker that can pick up on really bad spelling, and offer the correct suggestions
- A context spellchecker, that can understand the context of what I am writing, in order to avoid situations where I write a correctly spelled word but it is a completely different word then the one I intended (misused word)
- A spellchecker that offers for each suggested word its meaning so that I can easily select the intended word
- A spellchecker that can read out loud to me what I wrote, to make sure that what I wrote is really what I intended to write.
Ghotit context-spellchecker incorporates all the capabilities listed above. If you are suffering from dyslexia, you should know that Ghotit, unlike regular spellcheckers, was designed specifically to meet your (our) unique spell checking needs.