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August 17, 2004 12:01 AM

Broken: Microsoft Word spellcheck

CatOrgies1Molly Stevens writes:

I was spell checking a Microsoft Word document when a very amusing thing happened. I had misspelled the word "categories" as "catorgies". Microsoft Word's spellcheck decided that the phrase "cat orgies" was the most likely replacement! How often is that phrase typed in a regular sentence?

Separately, I typed "catorgies" into Google and it correctly asked if I meant "categories". Google's response to my mistake just make more sense.


It doesn't matter how often the words are used. One of the things Word will put into its suggestions are groups of words that are in its dictionary, regardless of how often they are used. Of course, its somewhat broken that the correct spellins wasn't in there...

Posted by: Someone at August 17, 2004 12:24 AM

u mean spelling, not spellins. anyway, another option never hurt anyone, so this is kind of pointless...

Posted by: a random moron at August 17, 2004 01:18 AM

This is not broken. Which is more fun, "categories" or "cat orgies"?

I say cat orgies every time. If you are at a party, are you going to entertain people with categories? Of course not. Cat orgies are awesome and all you really need are some cats to make it happen.

Microsoft catches alot of flak for being a huge, soulless conglomerate, but they are just trying to make you realize how fun cat orgies can be.

Posted by: Chris at August 17, 2004 09:40 AM

That's just wrong.

Posted by: bemdude at August 17, 2004 10:01 AM

A spell-checker does not come with mind-reading capabilities. It makes an algorithmic best guess of what correction to make, and in some cases, the guess is wrong. In this particular case, the guess is both wrong and amusing. But that doesn't make it broken.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at August 17, 2004 11:36 AM

Molly, at least you noticed the replacement. What I think is really broken, is someone who thinks the spell-checker is smarter than a human proofreader.

I used to work on a help desk for a major oil company. One day a drilling engineer called me up, incensed about a "bug" in Microsoft Word. Seems he had written up a long report about his last six months of work, which was inspecting the "boreholes" in northern Alberta. The last thing he did before sending it to his boss was fire up the spell-checker and press "Accept all". Naturally, the word "boreholes" was not in the Microsoft dictionary, so he sent his boss a huge report on how he'd spent the last six months inspecting the "brothels" of northern Alberta.

True story. I had to ask the poor guy to hold for a few minutes while I was helpless with laughter.

Posted by: E.T. at August 17, 2004 01:17 PM

Maybe if the guy had brought some cats with him to Alberta he wouldn't have needed to visit the brothels...

Posted by: T. Bradley Dean at August 17, 2004 03:12 PM

MS Word did me in when, finally receiving a response to an email from a very important prospect, I responded with the salutation,

Hell, Tim.

Never heard back.

Posted by: michelle at August 17, 2004 03:40 PM

I the early days of word processors, I was demonstrating spell check to a room full of people. We typed in a sample business letter, signed by their CEO, Mr. Spero. Well, "Spero" wasn't in the dictionary, but it did suggest an alternative... "Sperm"! I can't remember if I got that sale or not.

Posted by: Jon at August 17, 2004 04:05 PM

And then there's the mistakes that aren't misspelled (but wrong nonetheless).

My department used to be called Public Affairs. I once sent an email to a number of colleagues and higher-ups leaving one very important letter out of "Public".

Never made that mistake again! :-))

Posted by: Barberra at August 17, 2004 04:36 PM

So the ultimate spellcheck test would involve Mr Sperm typing a letter to the CEO of Pubic Affairs regarding a visit to brothels including cat orgies in northern Alberta.

Hey, I'm a copywriter, and - I can't get more interesting than that!

Posted by: chrisworth at August 17, 2004 05:26 PM

golden... absoutily golden. *is ROTFL* I've read all of this, and I'm rolling on the floor, laughing. alright, perhaps not on the floor, but close enough.

Posted by: Liz at August 17, 2004 07:43 PM

'absoutily'. Liz, that's, like, more godlen than godlen.

Posted by: tim at August 17, 2004 07:48 PM

Several years ago (Word 2.0?), the word "usability" was not recognized by Word's spell checker. It suggested "suability" instead. Ominously, the report I was working on compared the usability of a Microsoft product to one of its competitors.

Posted by: Carolyn Snyder at August 18, 2004 08:22 AM

I would think that one of the most common errors in word processing is eliding two words. Not broken.

Posted by: Curt at August 18, 2004 11:19 AM

A really good example of over-dependence on a spell-checker is "Stupid people don't read Nietzsche..." ( ), which was originally titled "Stupip people don't read Nietze..." No, I'm not joking, no matter how much I wish I was. I did a word count on that, and it was nearly one thousand words (not including quotes from other people) on the nature of intelligence, but she couldn't even proofread it and see that she typed in "intellience." She admits she used to be able to spell, but her "auto spell checker got turned off."

Posted by: onyxblue at August 18, 2004 08:58 PM

Yes, the most common error in word processing would be forgetting a space. Not broken at all. Google gave "categories" because Google does spell checking by whatever is most popular. Microsoft Word gave "cat orgies" because "catorgies" looks more like it that "categories". This proves that in this case, *gasp* MS Word is better than Google.

Google's popularity checker does have its upsides and downsides. For instance, if enough people spell "spirited" incorrectly as "sprited", Google will think that "sprited" is spelled correctly. MS Word will not have this problem. (I noticed this while trying to find a sprite editor called SpritED). Advantages, of course, are that words that aren't official, but still used a lot, like "Neopets", won't generate "Did you mean __" as it would on MS Word.

Each of them are not "bad", they're just different.

Posted by: Shadow at August 19, 2004 11:23 AM

I have a friend who sent an important email to a senior person in her place of employment. She spent lots of time carefully wording the email, ensuring the tone was appropriate, etc etc.

Sadly, due to a tragic spellchecker mishap, she signed the email "Kindest retards" instead of the more conventional "Kindest regards."

Posted by: Gil at August 20, 2004 12:49 AM

Writing a paper on society, the spellchecker of doom changed culture to clitoris.

And perils to penis.

Microsoft hates me, I tell you!

Posted by: Camilo at August 20, 2004 01:13 AM

Just proves that technology will never be a substitute for good old-fashioned human intelligence and education, and that software alone cannot repair poor communication skills. Sloppy writing and spelling on Internet message forums has long been one of my pet peeves, and I am embarassed to see it cropping into emails and other forms of communication in the workplace, often because people falsely believe spellcheck will correct their mistakes. I cringe when I see posters at work exhorting the staff to "please due your part" or "the Department honors it's employees".

Posted by: Thom at August 21, 2004 10:40 AM

I can't believe nobody has said this yet:

Spel chequers werk grate.

Posted by: Loren Pechtel at August 22, 2004 08:47 PM

My experience with MSWord's spell-checker at least suggests that one person at Microsoft has a sense of humor. I used to be married to a "Jennifer". The name wasn't in Word's dictionary and it offered "guanaphore" as a possibility! I despise Microsoft, generally, but still get a laugh out of that.

Posted by: J. Smith at August 23, 2004 12:12 PM

I often type "ans" instead of "and" and I can't figure out why it doesn't suggest "and". You would think that is the most logical word, because "S" is next to "D" on a keyboard. It suggests ands (is that a word???), ants, an, and more.

Posted by: anonymous at August 26, 2004 05:41 PM

Word is broken!! Of all the Windows apps, that one follows no sense of logic. "Select all" is CTRL+NUMPAD 5?! Everywhere else, it's CTRL+A. How I loath that program....

It has the consistancy of vomit. Ha... I mean it doesn't follow the same rules throughout the program! It's obvious that at least 50 different programmers or at the very least, "Cybil" wrote that mess.

LOL... "hookt on fonix werked fer me!" (Sorry, Loren, that as close I could come to the "Spel chequer" joke...)

Posted by: anon at August 29, 2004 04:02 AM

Ewe guise are two funny. Noting is rung with my Spill Czech.

Posted by: Bill at September 6, 2004 07:35 AM

Im not sure that this is Microsoft's fault, i mean this is from Word for Mac. This idea alone is just wrong

Posted by: Jimbo at September 19, 2004 04:36 PM

I must say I've never had quite the problems you people seem to with word. I just make sure not to push the "Correct all" or "ignore all" buttons because, indeed, THEY are the doom of word-processor victims everywhere. I still think MS Word spell check is better than good ol' human brains, cause brains don';t have an animated office assistant ;))

Posted by: Aubry at September 22, 2004 07:13 PM

most of the famous Microsoft Word spelling "suggestions" are urban myths or refer to WordPerfect, WordStar etc

Posted by: Nick at September 28, 2004 07:15 AM

One of my favorite MS Word spell-check corrections, incidentally-- and I've seen this one several times:

Someone means to type "sorry for the inconvenience". They're not sure how to spell that last word, though, so they type "inconvience" and let the spell checker correct it.

Unfortunately, the spell checker's correction is "incontinence"...

Posted by: codeman38 at September 30, 2004 11:16 AM

Half a century ago, long before spell-checkers were around, I was a very good speller, for a nine year old. One day I got into trouble with the class-mistress, and she made me stay behind after skewl to write out a sentence 100 times. I asked her whether I should copy what she had written or whether I should write the sentence correctly.

She had written on the chalkboard "I must learn to be obdient". Well, that got me another 100 lines instead of her unreserved approbation of my abilities.

I never use a spell-checker; anything I may mis-spell is a typo, not an error. :)

Posted by: JD at November 4, 2004 05:54 AM

Apparently Word on the Mac believes that "campak6lkyn" is spelled correctly. I purposely messed up the spelling cause despite the spell checker settings it didn't appear to be working.

Well I cannot figure out how to get it to work. Even highlighting the word or paragraph and starting the spell checker manually tells me that "campak6lkyn" is spelled absolutely correct.

As I write this Safari is telling me it's spelled wrong.

Posted by: Darren at November 25, 2004 05:13 PM

That is because a lot of spell checkers default to "ignore words with numbers"

Posted by: Max hise at December 2, 2004 03:31 PM

My friend's most amazing spell check moment was receiving a letter from a group that had benefitted from her organization's programs, thanking them for "all the wonderful pogroms." I think software as bloated as Word should have room for some degree of offensiveness and/or obscenity index -- where words like sperm, clitoris, pogrom etc. would be unlikely to be auto-offered as replacements unless, for example, the document already contained other words predefined in the index as being from a similar context.

Posted by: Kala at January 1, 2005 02:12 PM

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deson't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny

iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

Posted by: an observer at January 5, 2005 02:35 PM

I can not get any spell check on my computer I have msn dsl qwest said I had to talk to micosoft. Can you help me . Thank you

Posted by: Dee Wall at February 9, 2005 08:38 PM

Ok, now that's just weird. Translation at the bottom.

>I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty >uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The >phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. >Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde >Uinervtisy, it deson't mttaer in waht oredr >the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny

>iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat >ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can >be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it >wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn >mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, >but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?


>I couldn't believe that I could actually

>understand what I was reading. The

>phenomenal power of the human mind.

>According to a research at Cambridge >University, it doesn't matter in what order >the letters in a word are, the only

>important thing is that the first and last >letter be in the right place. The rest can >be a total mess and you can still read it >without a problem. This is because the human >mind does not read every letter by itself, >but the word as a whole. Amazing huh?

Posted by: lka1988 at February 11, 2005 10:26 PM

Going to a cat orgy would be fun!

Posted by: Administrator00192 at March 10, 2005 12:19 AM

Going to a cat orgy would be fun!

Posted by: Administrator00192 at March 10, 2005 12:19 AM

Now THIS is broken:

"I can not get any spell check on my computer I have msn dsl qwest said I had to talk to micosoft." [sic]

Who calls their ISP when they can't get SPELL CHECK to work? Wow. People's propensity for idiotic behavior never ceases to amaze me.

Posted by: Brian at March 21, 2005 03:06 PM

for anyone else who had to look up pogrom as an offensive word, it is a racial act of violence, normally associated with the jews.

Huh, the things ya don't know.

Posted by: Dot at January 5, 2006 05:22 AM

You have to give spell-checkers a brake - I mean break - since they're being asked to deal with one of the most inconsistent languages on the planet. After all, why should "discrete" and "discreet" be utterly different words? How 'bout "We went home together" vs. "We went home to get her"? You wear one boot to protect one foot, but two boots to protect two feet ... if you strand someone in the Sahara, does that mean you desert them in the desert? Why are "inaction" and "in action" opposites? And there's that famous poem for spell-checkers that begins "Merry hat a lid ell lam, it's fleas whirr wide as know".

The solution is a simple program:


do forever {

check.Spelling() != proofRead(all);}


Posted by: JayKay at January 21, 2006 10:23 PM

The absolute worst thing about MS Spell Checker is there is NO LOOK UP function.

I don't expect it to know the word I intended to type, but if should let me look for it in a list of words.

WordPerfect, which I have not used in many years :( gave me advanced look up features with wild cards. I originally used this as a DOS based program from a floppy and the Spell Checker still kicked the butt of MS current version!!

Just my two cents - stepping down from my soap box.

Thank you for letting me vent.

Posted by: Joe at May 10, 2006 03:49 PM

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