Microsoft Word's Spell-Checker
Gets Failing Grade in Computerese
By Joan E. Rigdon
The Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 1995, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
The Internet isn't in Bill Gates's dictionary.
The chief executive of Microsoft thinks the Internet is so important that
every one of his company's new products should "try and go overboard
on its Internet features," he wrote in a recent internal memo.
Good thing he didn't run the memo through the spell-checker in his
company's popular word-processing program, Microsoft Word. While
the program recognizes some newfangled words like "CD-ROM" and
"on-line," the spell-checker can also be downright confining: It would
have turned "Internet" into "Interment," and "Internet's" into "Internee's."
Writers who really want to get their blood racing should use Word to
check "e-mail." The spell-checker's two alternatives include "emboli"
Mr. Gates may someday hope to collect transaction fees from
"cybershoppers," but when Word's spell-checker meets them, it has "no
suggestions" for alternatives. Ditto for "Netscape," as in Netscape
Communications, the company that analysts say is one of Microsoft's
biggest competitors on the Net.
Microsoft officials were at the big computer trade show Comdex (that's
"Commixed," "Comedy" or "Codex" to the spell-checker) and couldn't be
reached for comment. But a Microsoft spokesman says there are good
reasons why Internet terms aren't included in the spelling program.
Microsoft buys its dictionary from another company, he says, and that
dictionary doesn't include Internet terms.
Also, customers using technical terms can easily add them to their
spell-checkers. With the newest version of Word, adding a term is "one
mouse button click away," the spokesman says.
Microsoft had some warning that spellcheckers could one day become an
issue. The Dallas Morning News raised hackles in the computer industry
last December when an editor accidentally accepted all of a
spell-checker's alternate spellings in a technology article that appeared in
print -- changing chip maker Intel into "Until" and Microsoft into
Despite their absence from Microsoft's official dictionary, Internet
companies aren't giving up hope. "Microsoft is willing to rapidly mutate"
to be part of the Internet, says Matt Kursh, chief executive of eShop Inc.,
an Internet shopping concern. "But perhaps their spell-checker is not
mutating as quickly as they are."
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