illustration by JAMES GULLIVER HANCOCK
Spell-checking software can catch typos. But write a sentence like “Eye wood hate to be a bad spiller,” and your word processor signals all clear—because each word is correctly spelled. Now Ginger Software, an Israeli startup, claims it is creating an English-language program that will fix spelling errors in one click based on a reading of an entire sentence. Most spell checkers look only at nearby words to alert writers to misusage (“their” for “there,” say). A truly contextual checker would be “a big deal,” says Daniel Kies, a linguistics professor at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., who follows advances in spell checkers. It would also require lots of computer memory, a problem Ginger says it will solve by leaving the heavy lifting to its server, which the software will access when in use. Currently the program focuses on mistakes made by dyslexics, a major target market for Ginger. A beta edition designed for the general public is due in October, with plans to sell the completed contextual checker (which will include text-to-speech capabilities) as a Microsoft Word add-on.