I've been building dictionaries since 2003 and my work is now the basis of dictionaries used by projects such as Google Chrome, Firefox and OpenOffice.org. A couple of years ago I decided since there really wasn't any involvement by others short of taking my work, that I'd start again. To provide the dictionary I'd always wanted but didn't realise it didn't exist. I wanted a dictionary which provided the preferred Australian English spelling.
Now most people don't even realise this is a problem. The most common statement people make is they don't like American spelling. Getting rid of the "ize" spelling variations was easy, but it was just the beginning. The problem was my early work was based on a UK dictionary. I culled over 30,000 words from the UK dictionary before starting to rebuild it. My main tool was the Microsoft spellchecker. Whatever limitations the Microsoft spellchecker contained wouldn't have picked up the errors and I've since identified the Microsoft spellchecker contains over 2,400 words which aren't the preferred spelling. I find many words which should be in the dictionary and many that need to be included. The only way I could ensure a quality product was to start again.
So start again I did about two years ago. This time however, so others didn't just take the work and contribute nothing in return, my work became closed source and copyright. My belief is if people value what I do then a fair exchange of energy shows it is of value. The first product of this work is available online as Word Check. Word Check already contains nearly 60,000 words. Progress is slow as the work is very labour intensive. A single word can take hours to review. Ultimately for me, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing to the best of my ability.
So far I've released three products as a result of my dictionary work. Word Check, which is an online tool enabling people to check if they're using the preferred Australian English spelling of a word. The second product is a patch for Outlook Express to provide Australians with at least a UK dictionary, but if they have an older copy of Word or Office, the ability to use Australian English spelling. The patch doesn't use my word list. The third product is a file which provides Microsoft Office users with the preferred Australian English spelling. Any Australian user of Microsoft Office products would benefit from using this work, but usually they aren't even aware they need it. Others know from their writing because they use inconsistent spelling. Others know because they often appear to be using American English. It does affect how others see them through their written word, whether it be in a resume, a report, or a web site. People do notice, but the writer is usually never aware. For example type in mom into a Word document and you'll see no spelling error. The obvious words such as organize or summarize are easy to recognise, but a copy and paste from another source, or a merge of documents can easily lead to inconsistency with both spelling variations contained within a single document. There are many other words which slip under the radar. None of us would consider writing to-day as was done in the past, but a great number write co-operate without realising the preferred style has changed over time. Our habits from school show others a lot more than we realise. My work helps those who are interested in nudging their written work to the next level. A better level.
I will be using this blog to share interesting aspects of words in our language. I'm not a language expert. I make plenty of grammatical and punctuation mistakes like everyone else. What I do, is to take each word and systematically check the word against authoritative resources and determine the preferred Australian English spelling when there is more than a single spelling variation.
I hope you enjoy my journey as I explore the Australian English spelling. My aim on this journey is to provide Australians with the preferred Australian English spelling.
The Preferred Australian English spelling