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Friday, February 6, 2015

James Adonis' article 'Should we adopt American spelling', which appears in The Sydney Morning Herald contains an important piece of misinformation.

I often see people state we should move to American spelling because of the number of Americans using the language is huge compared to all other variations. However that logic is flawed. If we thought that way we should all think about learning Chinese. I'm neither for or against change, but I do believe if we're using Australian English, we should use the spelling variations used by the majority of Australians.

In the article by James ( states the following.

It is, however, a losing battle, made worse by an American institution by the name of Microsoft and, more specifically, its helpful but insidious spellchecking tool. 

Here’s why. Quite rarely do people change the language of the spellchecker to ‘English AUS’ or ‘English UK’. The consequence is that they type away oblivious of the norms in their own country. Subconsciously, they’re allowing American spelling to infiltrate their writing, turning those foreign nuances into a habit.

Like many others James blames Microsoft. Yes let's all get on the bash Microsoft bandwagon. The reality is Microsoft have done quite a good job. Probably around 10 years ago James would have been right in terms of the default language, but that issue hasn't existed for many years. If your computer is set up correctly Office will pick up that you're using Australian English and you'll use the Australian dictionary.

Here's the problem. Many people think 'ize' spelling is American and 'ise' is British. Thus we should be using British. Therein lies the basic problem. Even the English use both spelling variations and so do we. So generally both the 'ize' and 'ise' spelling variations of words are BOTH correct (except in America where they made a decision long ago). However the 'ise' variation has become the preferred spelling in Australia. Microsoft provides both spelling variations in their dictionary so it is up to the user to decided how they wish to spell. This is the same as our authoritative dictionaries which are descriptive and not prescriptive.

Personally I find this confusing and unnecessary, and thus I created the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary which enabled me to create add-ins for Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and currently in development, a native dictionary for Apple Macs.

So I'm sorry to say James, it isn't Microsoft's fault. At least in most instances. There are errors in the dictionary as there will be in any work but this isn't one. No it isn't because computers aren't set up correctly as they've evolved. However that doesn't stop people downloading and installing software incorrectly. How many people chose the US version of open source software over the British version simply because it is more up-to-date. I suspect many.

For those who are interested in finding out the reality of what is happening with the spellcheckers, please feel free to drop into my site

I am however thankful that James did spell spellchecker as one word. If he had been using Microsoft Office, or most of the spellcheckers used by Australians,  the word will be marked as an error and the suggestion which splits spellchecker into 'spell' and 'checker'. That's an error in the software people are using.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.

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