Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ginger Spell on Disability 411

Several years ago, I read a passage that has stuck with me and become my own day-to-day mantra: “There are no mistakes in life, only lessons. It is only when we fail to learn the lesson that a mistake occurs.”

That thought also echoes the adage of, “If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.”

With those ideas in mind, let me ask a question. What do we learn from proofreading with a spellchecker? When we use most spellcheckers, we get the screen popping up the correct spelling of words, one word at a time, with no real feedback on what we’re doing wrong. If we’re not learning from our mistakes, er lessons, then we are destined to repeat them.

So, how about a spellchecker designed not to look at just the single word and be a preventative measure, like most are today, but instead, looks at the whole sentence and contextual use of the word, and seeks to teach the user where he is making errors?
And, what if this novel idea worked as a plug in for Microsoft Word, easily the most-used word processing program?
And, best yet, what if it were free?

If this sounds like an interesting tool, then check out the latest episode of the
Disability 411 podcast.
In Episode 58, Beth interviews Miki Feldman-Simon of
Ginger Software,
The company which has developed Ginger Spell, the very spellchecker that I just described above. It is marketed for being a “new technology for people with dyslexia.”

It doesn’t correct just spelling mistakes. It also corrects misused words, basically words that are spelled correctly but not in that context. How we do it is we look at the context of the sentence. The software uses breakthrough technology that looks at the context of each sentence and works out what the writer or the user was trying to write according to the context.

At the moment we correct spelling and misused words, but in the beginning of next year we’ll also be correcting grammatical errors which will make a huge difference to people making not just spelling mistakes but say, people for whom English is a second language who make a lot of grammatical errors.

What the software also does by correcting the whole sentence, it’s making the whole way people work a lot more efficient. Instead of going back and looking word by word, it is much faster to correct full sentences. So, if it takes someone an hour to write, and this is the feedback we’re getting from users right now, instead of it taking them a half an hour or an hour to write a few sentences before, it’s very quick and very efficient. you click one button and it corrects all of the mistakes within that sentence. You click another button, it corrects all the misused words and you just continue working.

It’s just a much better way to use the time and the accuracy is a lot higher than any other spell checker. If you really have difficulty writing and you make unusual spelling mistakes, which a lot of people who have learning difficulties or who have dyslexia do, normal spell checkers can’t correct the unusual mistakes that they make. Our software, because it looks at the context of the sentence can correct these unusual mistakes at the sentence level. It’s much more accurate and it’s much faster and easier to use.

The learning of lessons comes in reports that Ginger Spell will generate. This is where Ginger Spell is different by offering lessons, not mistakes. The user can learn where and how he is creating errors and, once these areas are identified, can work to fix these in the future.

To use the Ginger Spell plug in, the user will need to set up a log in account. That lets the program generate the individual report for that particular user, which can make this a very useful tool for university writing labs, or even for student computers operated by the DSO.

Does this sound like an interesting tool? Check out the link above for the D411 show for more of the interview with Miki. Also, go to the Ginger Software page to download and try out Ginger Spell for yourself.

And, remember…, no more mistakes, only lessons.


Anonymous said...

Loved it. Have downloaded the software from and tried it.
It managed to correct almost every sentence I wrote and I really made some horrendous errors.
Thank you Ron for letting us know.

Ron Graham said...


Thanks for the feedback. Hopefully, others will learn about and use this new and useful tool. Its taking spellchecking to a new level, a level of learning.

Lon said...

Thanks Ron. I am excited for you and the projects you are doing. I am going to have to try out this spell checker. You are a great resource and your giving back in training is a huge gift.
Have a wonderful Christmas holiday, friend...

Iris said...

Try competing and better product Ghotit at:

Integrated context spell checking, dictionary and text to speech services.. fast response time...developed by dyslectics for dyslectics ...

Ghotit offers free online service.
Soon to release post-beta version of Word Plugin...