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Thursday, December 18, 2014

South Australian spelling test search uncovers something unexpected

Today I thought I'd check out the South Australian spelling test by searching Google. What I found however wasn't good. I found the following document on a Northern Territory government site. The document was written in 2007.


I opened the document and started to read the first paragraph. I didn't even reach the end of the first sentence and there it was. The dreaded apostrophe error. The use of an apostrophe to indicate a possessive when no apostrophe was required since it is simply a plural.

As I scrolled I noticed another common error. The abbreviated form of example written as Eg instead of E.g. At that point I simply stopped reading. There are eight teachers who have put their name on this document and yet not one picked up the error in the first sentence.

Sometimes I wonder what chance do our children have when those who are teaching them aren't as thorough as they could be.

I personally struggle with the use of apostrophes and one reason is I see incorrect usage every day. The incorrect usage makes it much harder to work out which is correct and which is incorrect. Perhaps it's time to try to reduce the incorrect use of apostrophes.

Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Google Chrome and the Opera browser can now use the preferred Australian English spelling on Apple Mac OS X computers.

For some time I've provided an Australian Dictionary for Apple's OS X users on the page www.australian-dictionary.com.au/mac/. Unlike the Australian dictionary included with Apple's OS X, the dictionary I've created only includes the preferred spelling and not the many secondary spelling variations. The preferred spelling is the spelling most people consider to be correct for a word, whereas the majority of people would consider the alternate or secondary spelling variation to be incorrect.

Recently however I stumbled across something rather interesting. Most of the time I use Safari and have installed my own dictionary files so I can use the preferred spelling. I also have Opera installed as a second browser for testing purposes. For some reason I decided to check the dictionary being used. Quite to my surprise I found Opera appeared to be using my dictionary. A quick test and yes Opera was indeed using my dictionary. On Windows the Opera browser would use the American or British dictionary. When Opera said they were going to use my open source work I asked what they were going to do in return. As a result they chose not to use my dictionary. I appreciated that because unlike Firefox and Google Chrome that just used my work and gave nothing in return, at least Opera chose not to use my work and to me I was good with that.

I then started thinking, I wonder which dictionary Google Chrome uses. I downloaded and installed Google Chrome. Again to my surprise Google Chrome under OS X doesn't use dictionaries it provides, but uses the dictionaries made available through Apple's operating system. Since my dictionary is defined as the default native dictionary under OS X, that meant Google Chrome was also using my dictionary. That makes me very happy. All users of Google Chrome need to do is to obtain the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary from myself, make it the default, and then Chrome users under OS X can take advantage of my work.

My dictionary work under OS X is still a work in progress, but having said that, it covers an estimated 98% of words most people use. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, so when I feel the time is right I'll release my work as production ready.

Apple Mac users now have three browsers they can select from that can use the preferred Australian English spelling. I've been a long time supporter of Microsoft Windows, but this is one area where Apple from my perspective is better. Microsoft does not provide the ability to use your own dictionary and my current approach under Windows whilst very good, still relies on identifying errors or issues and then providing files to correct those issues.

Personally I find Apple's Safari browser to be suitable for most of my browsing needs whilst using the Apple MacBook Air, so I don't need to use Google Chrome or Opera much at this point in time. However never say never, because you never know when a feature of one of the other browsers becomes exceptionally useful.

If you'd like to use the preferred Australian English spelling then feel free to visit my page (www.australian-dictionary.com.au/mac/) and check out my work for Apple Macs.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Spelling and grammar errors can be easily spotted on many signs such as this one in the Eltham Village Shopping Centre.

I was visiting the Eltham Village Shopping Centre on the weekend. As I walked down the ramp from the top car park I noticed the advertising posters. I generally don't pay much attention to the posters, but the hairdresser's poster caught my attention and not in a particularly good way.

Can you spot the spelling and grammar errors?

As I walked into the shopping centre I looked up and saw the Centre Management sign. Yes another spelling error.

I thought that's not good. I thought, what's on the other side of the sign?

The word centre was now spelt correctly on the other side of the sign. How do graphic designers and printers get one side of a sign correct on one side and don't have the spelling the same on both sides? To me that doesn't make sense.

You may also notice the spelling carparks, which is a secondary spelling. The preferred spelling in Australia is car parks.

Whilst I tend to consider these spelling issues minor, I know for me, seeing spelling errors like this around me all the time can make it hard to remember the correct spelling and grammar. Often the incorrect usage of the apostrophe makes me doubt that I know the correct usage. We learn through usage and example and I often feel such poor examples cannot be helping those who are learning our language, such as the young and for those with English as a second language.

Can you spot the errors in the above signs?

Kelvin Eldridge
The best spelling for Australians.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Is the spelling car park or carpark?

Every day I see multiple a word is spelt and it literally stops me when I'm reading the article. I think, "that's not how I'd spell the word", and then I start to think about the spelling rather than the content of the article. Has that happened to you?

In this case it was a truly tragic situation of a man dying after falling three floors in a Westfield car park. This headline read "Man dies after falling from third level of Westfield shopping centre carpark". My first concern was for someone local as I live near Westfield Doncaster, but in this case it was Westfield Parramatta. How weird I thought. Even such a powerful and emotional headline trips me up with what I consider is probably a secondary spelling. The spelling had got in the way of the message.

So which is the correct spelling? The preferred spelling in Australia is using two words or car park. The single word variation carpark is a secondary spelling variation.

To check the ratio of usage in Australia I now use my search engine (www.advancedsearch.com.au/SearchAustralia/) which only includes sites with domains ending in .au and selected Australian sites. I enclose each spelling variation in double quotes which then returns the number of pages found by Google. In this case the numbers were:

car park - 1.9 million
carpark - 484,000

The Macquarie dictionary has car park as the header word (the entry) and carpark in that entry as an Also spelling. That is, carpark is a secondary spelling. The Oxford dictionary does not have a separate headword and only includes car park as part of the definition for car. The Oxford does not list carpark as a spelling.

The problem with dictionaries is they document usage which doesn't help us to know what most people would normally consider to be the correct spelling. Both spelling variations are considered correct by the dictionaries, as years ago dictionaries across the world decided to stop be prescriptive (telling us how to spell) to being descriptive (documenting how we spell). That doesn't really help people who simply wish to use the best spelling option.

If you were writing for an audience you could expect 80% would be expecting the spelling car park and around 20% carpark. In my opinion it is best to write using the spelling the majority of people use and that way it is considered correct by the majority of people. Far easier to argue your case if someone then challenges your spelling, who may themselves prefer the secondary spelling.

Kelvin Eldridge
Making it easier to Australians to know the preferred Australian English spelling.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

David Jones is a little inconsistent with their use of Wi-Fi.

I was checking the modern usage of apostrophe on retail sites and I came across the following David Jones page for their free Wi-Fi.


What caught my attention is the number of inconsistencies in such a short space. If we look at the graphic we see WIFI and INSTORE.

Now if we move to the two paragraphs of text that follow we see a number of inconsistencies.

Notice the first paragraph has the correct use of Wi-Fi whereas the second paragraph and the graphic use the incorrect form WiFi. The word instore is one of three possible forms but the preferred form in Australia is in-store.

Perhaps using a retailers site wasn't as good an idea as I first thought. Certainly does not give me confidence that appropriate care has been taken with the site. To me that's a pity as quality brands are often leaders which we can follow and use as references.

Kelvin Eldridge

Friday, October 24, 2014

I thought this article on Mrs Daffern's research through the CSU's School of Education in Albury Wodonga was an interesting read so decided to share.

Mrs Daffern's research, through the CSU's School of Education in Albury Wodonga, is examining how children learn to spell so that educators can improve how this important skill is taught.... read more
The preferred Australian English spelling.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apostrophe use. If there's one things you'll see that's very common, it is the incorrect use of the apostrophe.

Apostrophe use. What can I say. Every day you'll probably see the apostrophe used incorrectly. I've used it incorrectly many times and I'm sure you probably have too. You'll see misuse of the apostrophe on signs and in written work all around you.

My work is about the preferred Australian English spelling. The apostrophe appears in my work in the form of possessives, plurals and telescoped words. Sometimes even though this seems simple it isn't.

To help those struggling with the apostrophe you may wish to check out the following article from the Macquarie dictionary site.


My favourite example is when I realised that everyone I asked seemed to say Princes Highway incorrectly. Everyone including myself would say Princess Highway. Home come I kept thinking. The reason is convention. The apostrophe in Princes has been dropped due to convention. If you don't know the convention (and many people including myself didn't), then you can see how this can lead people to mispronounce the word. Once you know however, it all makes sense.

Now if you're having trouble with an apostrophe and would like to ask a question, I'm not your man. I only do words;-)

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.