Geekspeak: February 11, 2002

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-02-11 Print this article Print

Seeking 'commonality' of spelling.

If anyone wants a candidate for a web service that everyone needs, I propose spell checking. This function demands regular updates, not to mention punctilious debugging.

Word 97, for example, still used by many eWeek readers, can be the worst kind of back-seat driver: It interrupts you to give you wrong directions (see screen, right). Yes, "commonalty" is actually a word, meaning "the common people"—but its much less often used than "commonality," which Word 97 calls an error.

Does Word 2002 get it right? You be the judge. Word 2002 accepts either spelling, even though only "commonality" is in its thesaurus as having a known definition. I dont think this is the way to do it, either.

The best interim solution Ive found is, which offers multiple definitions (including "commonalty") from varied, credible sources.

In the meantime, if anti-virus software can regularly offer to update definitions, cant spelling checkers do the same?

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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