Yearly Archives: 2011

Aug 11th 2011

What makes a word a word?

One of the challenges of developing a strong spell checker is creating a database of words that are considered correct; or rather the question of how we decide what word is a word?
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Jul 28th 2011

Business owners, beware of spelling mistakes!

English spelling can be rather tricky. Often, the way the word is spelled has little to do with how it is pronounced. Therefore, many people misspell words, including native English speakers. Unfortunately, bad spelling can say many things about you, mostly carelessness. And why is it important to know how to spell? Well, becuz badd spilleng is hrd two undstnd wen u reed it. Because when you write, you do so not just for yourself but for a reader. Because misspelling reflects badly on you.

Well, apparently it can get worse. According to online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe, internet businesses can suffer a significant drop in sales when spelling mistakes are found on their websites. According to Mr. Duncombe’s analysis, poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses.

The entrepreneur examined one case in particular and found that revenue was twice as high after an error was corrected on the tightsplease.co.uk website. As shocking as it may sound, spelling mistakes do have this effect and they put off potential customers.

So what can be done about this? Well, all you business owners out there, check your texts and then check them again. If you have an online business, use a software like Ginger’s spelling and grammar checker to proofread your text and make sure it is error free. Don’t just check it once. Once it’s corrected, give it another go and check it again to make sure it’s safe to go live. After all, you don’t want to find that your online sales were cut in half because of a single spelling mistake… :-/

Adios for now -

Sharon and the Ginger team

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Jul 18th 2011

From underdog to hero: Dyslexic Tom wins UK’s The Apprentice

Last night, on BBC ONE, the unexpected happened. Tom Pellereau, a 31-year-old inventor who was on the losing side a record eight times during the series, was chosen by Alan Sugar to become his new business partner in ‘The Apprentice’ final. More than 10 million viewers watched as Lord Sugar told him: “You’ve got the experience in making, inventing and selling stuff. My decision is – Tom, you’re going to become my business partner.”

Lord Alan Sugar and winner Tom Pellereau

Lord Alan Sugar and winner Tom Pellereau

It has been mentioned various times throughout the series that Tom suffers from dyslexia. But it seems like it didn’t get in his way. On the contrary, Tom says that his dyslexia had given him specific skills and talents when it came to product design. Interestingly, because of his dyslexia, Tom could figure out from an early age what he was good at (science, engineering and design) and what things he was bad at.

Dyslexia for me has always been a massive positive” says Tom. “I was so lucky that computers came out when I was starting to write essays.” Ironically, Alan Sugar’s Amstrad computer company played a part. “The very first computer my granddad gave me was an Amstrad 1512.” Pellereau explained.

What Tom describes does not come as a surprise. Many dyslexic people’s quality of life  changes dramatically when they start using the computer. Computer programmes provide valuable reinforcement, variety and can increase motivation. These programs can be used to practice reading, word attack skills, spelling and maths; there are also many assistive programmes which enable learners to access material, while others support writing and learning.

Do you suffer from dyslexia? Ginger Software’s spelling and grammar checker for dyslexia can help change your life. You can now try it for free!

Tom knows that now is the time to shine as he’s getting £250,000 to be invested in his furniture – and hopes to launch a range of his other inventions with the tycoon’s help.

Good luck Tom!

Adios for now -

Sharon and the Ginger Team

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Jul 11th 2011

Your most frequent mistakes according to Ginger

I had a look at Ginger’s most frequent error report the other day and was quite surprised. Other than popular typos and your other usual suspects, the mistake that occurs most frequently is when users confuse ‘is’ with ‘are’ (and vice versa). Yup, that’s Ginger’s leading grammar error at the moment. Right behind it you can find:

- confusion between the articles a/an,
- preposition mistakes of in/on,
- confusing to with too,
- using ‘to’ instead of ‘for’, and
- the notoriously famous: using ‘there’ instead of ‘their’,

All of these mistakes are obviously handled by Ginger so consider yourself covered. Nevertheless, it’s much better to be able to avoid these mistakes. You can already look up some of these topics in Ginger’s Online Grammar Book. For example, the use of ‘is’ and ‘are’ in the present progressive tense. More explanations about how to avoid the mistakes above and more are coming soon so do check back!

In the meantime, be careful with ‘is’ and ‘are’ :-)

Adios for now -

Sharon and the Ginger Team

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Jul 4th 2011

What is up with English spelling?!

Ever wondered why you ‘speak’ but make a ‘speech’? Why the ‘t’ is doubled in ‘letter’? And why on earth do we need the ‘e’ at the end words like ‘have’ and ‘gone’? English spelling is known for being messed up and inconsistent. Sadly, we can only blame history.

English spelling can be weird and confusing. As a child, I started learning English at the age of 9. The thing I mostly remember about my English lessons is the numerous dictations we were forced to take. At least once a week, we would have a dictation quiz. The teacher would read out a list of words and we had to write them down, using the correct spelling of course. We did that for years! When I grew up I realised that the dictations we really thought we could do without, were pretty much the most effective way to learn how to spell in English. But why is that?

Exceptions to the rule

Well, the answer is rather simple. Us humans, we like patterns. Patterns and rules. Not so much exceptions. Unfortunately, English is not so great on the pattern side of things. Just to give you a flavour of it, there are 3,500 words in English that contain exceptions to the spelling ‘rules’. How did that happen?!

Well, as it turns out, back in the old Shakespeare’s days things were much more fluid if you like. Spelling wasn’t formalised and words could be spelled in many ways. For example, only Shakespeare’s name could be spelled in 41 different ways! Later on when spelling was finally formalised, only little thought was given to spelling consistency (hence ‘speak’ and ‘speech’).

But the problem started even earlier, when the first book in English came out. It was the Bible, which was printed in Germany, by Germans who knew no English. For many English people, this Bible was the first book they had ever possessed. They learned to read and write from it, copying the spelling mistakes it contained!  This gradually made many English spellings very weird.

Learning how to spell

This brings us back to the present. We established that English spelling is not easy. How should we cope with it? Well, you might be surprised to know that it takes a native English speaking child 12 years to learn how to spell properly (just for the sake of the comparison, it takes an Italian child 2 years to learn how to spell well). No wonder spelling bees are so popular! So if you’re not a native English speaker you should know that learning how to spell in English takes time.

To improve your spelling you can do a number of things:

  1. Keep lists of words you find difficult to spell and use them to practice your spelling.
  2. Use a dictionary.

What about using spell checkers when learning how to spell?

Professionals say it’s OK to use a spell-checker, but only the kind that helps you learn from your mistakes (not those auto correct tools). Ginger Software does this exactly. Ginger corrects a large range of spelling errors. From simple typos to severe and unusual mistakes. The good thing is, it will not correct anything while you are not aware of it. Your mistakes are well highlighted, you can listen to how the misspelled words are pronounced as well as the correct words. You can also explore other correction alternatives and choose the one that suits your text. At any point in time, you can access the Ginger Learning platform to check your progress and review your past mistakes. You can use that to make word lists for yourself and even have your own dictations. Try it for free and see for yourself!

Adios for now -

Sharon and the Ginger team

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Jun 22nd 2011

Are you part of the English Mania?

If you are reading these lines then your English language skills are most likely quite good. You might be a native English speaker or someone who speaks English as a second language or as a foreign language. You might be surprised to know how many people speak English. There are about 350 million native English speakers in the world, and about as many who speak it as a second language. 750 million speak English as a foreign language. Moreover, English is being learned by about a billion people. Billion! That’s a huge number. Have you ever stopped to think why English is so popular and why it is important to speak English?

And why is it? Try to ask this question on Yahoo! Answers. The most popular answer is “Because English people are too lazy to learn yours!” Hmm, amusing as it might be, it’s not really the reason. In reality, English is the lingua franca of the world, but not because it’s spoken by the largest number of people. It’s mainly because English is spoken as a native language or is a very dominant language in more continents than any other language. Think of the US and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, South Africa and also the Caribbean. No other language has the same impact on so many parts of the world.

Still not convinced? You must have missed the fact that English is everywhere. It is used by non-English-speaking tourist destinations to communicate with visitors, it dominates most of the World Wide Web’s stored data and pages, it is critical for international business and even for landing a good job. That’s why a billion people are learning English.

And indeed the world has a new mania: the English Mania – a relatively new obsession with learning English. Watch Jay Walker talk about this new mania. He shares photos and spine-tingling audio of Chinese students rehearsing English — “the world’s second language” — by the thousands. Check it out:

To summarise, there’s no doubt. It’s important to speak English and it can certainly make life easier and more enjoyable. The more you master it, the better. It only makes sense to hop on the English Mania train and not wait for the lazy native English speakers of the world to start learning other languages.

And what do you think? Are you an enthusiastic English learner? Are you a native English speaker who feels that English is more than enough? Or do you believe that this is just a temporary trend and that a different language is going to take over the world? Don’t be shy, share your thoughts with us!

Adios for now -

Sharon and the Ginger team

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Jun 15th 2011

School children produce better texts with Ginger

Great feedback all around at our visit to The Norman Howard School in Rochester, NY

A couple of weeks ago, Miki, our VP of US operations, visited one of the schools that use Ginger and saw the students and Ginger in action.

Students at The Norman Howard School have been using Ginger for a while now since the software’s early days when it was in beta and text-to-speech (TTS) capabilities were not available. Miki had a chance to observe classes where the children were working on writing assignments. She watched some of the students as they were using Ginger to edit their work:

“It was interesting to watch the different strategies the students used”, says Miki, “Some constantly used the TTS feature. They kept on listening to the complete texts and used it as a cue to review their work while other students listened to the individual sentences within the toolbar. Some students briefly looked at the corrected sentence and clicked ‘Accept’ while others checked every corrected word, clicked on it, reviewed the suggestions etc.”

Miki had some time to sit with students and teachers and demonstrate more techniques for using Ginger efficiently. For example, if the sentence contains many severe mistakes, it helps to re-Ginger it once some corrections are applied. For example, in the picture below, a student is using Ginger to correct the word ‘sekrits’ (an unusual misspelling of ‘secrets’):

'sekrits' corrected to 'secrets'

After applying the correction, when re-Gingering the sentence, a new error is found – ‘people’ (instead of ‘person’), a grammar error in this case. The final sentence contains no more mistakes:

'people' replaced with the correct singular form - 'person'

“It was very visible how Ginger can help these students” concludes Miki. The teachers at the school were extremely excited to meet with us and there were positive comments all around! They mentioned how Ginger enables the students to work independently and significantly helps them produce more texts of better quality. In particular, the teachers told Miki that they were very pleased about adding TTS capabilities to Ginger as it helps with both the writing as well as the proofreading processes.

“Ginger is a great tool to have in your pocket for any writing assignment”, summarized Edina Fitzpatrick, the Coordinator of the Instructional Technology at The Norman Howard School, “Ginger falls in the realm of tools the students can take with them at any age, to communicate on social networks, at collage, at work, and they will benefit from it in the long run”.

Ginger is used in many schools across the US, UK, Canada and Australia. If you would like to find out how Ginger can fit into your school or as a parent, if you want to know how your child can benefit from Ginger, please contact us and we will be happy to have a chat and explain everything.

We’d like to thank The Norman Howard School for giving us an insight into the children’s work with Ginger. It’s always a pleasure to meet our users face to face and to see the different ways they choose to use Ginger to correct their texts. And thank you Miki for reporting back!

Adios for now -

Sharon and the Ginger team

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Jun 3rd 2011

Ginger’s Online Grammar Book is finally here!

The very first topic out of the Online Ginger Grammar Book is out

We’re super excited as we’ve been waiting for this for a long time now – our very own, cool and updated online grammar book.

The thing is, we looked around and realised that although there are some English grammar web pages out there, they are, how shall I put it, less than wonderful. Some lack content, others are a nightmare to use, and many are just completely amature. We knew we could do better but it took us a while to pull ourselves together and get this project into first gear (hey, you can’t blame us, we’ve been busy working on other cool stuff!).

Now the idea has come to life, not without great effort and creativity from Elad, our web programmer and Shiraz, our super creative director who gave the online grammar book a look and feel we think is top notch (but you’ll be the judge of that…).

Visit the Online Ginger Grammar Book

The book covers a large selection of grammatical topics, suitable for beginners as well as advanced learners or even native speakers who are interested in English grammar. Each topic offers explanations, examples, and exercises. You can even check your answers online using the Ginger correction widget.

So far, we have released the first topic out the book which is Adjectives. It includes descriptions of different types of adjectives, how to form them, order them, use them to compare things and a lot more. Not to worry though, we are working fast and hard to release many more topics so stay tuned as there’s more to come soon!

Visit the Online Ginger Grammar Book

As always, we would like to know what you think. If you like the online grammar book, do let us know. If you don’t, that’s OK too, but do tell us why. If you have comments or suggestions please share them with us and we’ll try to do better. Either leave us a comment here or contact us through the website.

Adios for now -

Sharon and the Ginger team

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May 11th 2011

Let your visitors correct text directly on your site

Out now: Ginger’s shiny and new correction widget!

Yes, we’ve had our little online Ginger widget up and running on our website for a while now but we just gave it a boost and a face lift. Our brilliant art director, Shiraz, and her team, designed a much smarter interface to suit this cool little widget and it now looks like this:

But the better news is, you can get the Ginger online tool and add it to your own webpage for free. The widget uses Ginger’s spell checker and grammar checker and corrects entire sentences with a single click. If your page allows text input, like comments on blog posts, visitors to your page will be able to check and correct their texts with Ginger before posting them. We all know how embarrassing it can be to post text with mistakes on the web so we thought your visitors will find it pretty useful. Plus, if you like Ginger, this can help you tell the world what it’s missing and how to get it.

You can get the Ginger online tool code from our new Media Kit page. Shiraz let you pick a color of your choice for the graphics (there are four available colors). Just click on one of the colors and then on the Get Code button and copy and paste the code into your page. You should then have it up and running.

We’d love to get your feedback on this and in general about Ginger. You can tell us what you think here on the blog or on our Facebook page.

Adios for now -
Sharon & the Ginger team

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May 3rd 2011

Calling all beta lovers

All you Ginger users out there already know the famous Ginger drawer, F2 key and correction window. Behind the scenes, we have been working on creating a much lighter interface. Our goal was to develop a straightforward tool that will detect errors as you go, mark them in the text and allow accepting the corrections for individual words. In other words, we wanted our users to have an alternative minimal interface.

In the new interface, Ginger waits in the background and as the first error appears it alerts the user as well as marks the error in the text:

There are different markings for different correction types. Right-clicking on a word opens a light menu of suggested corrections that you can choose from:

The corrections haven’t changed. Everything that is corrected using F2 and the Ginger window is supported here too. We call it “the seamless” (scuze the name, it’s temporary) and are just about to release its beta version. We’re eager to see how our users (and users who never used Ginger in the past but use spelling and grammar checkers) like the new interface and we would love for you to give it a try. If you want to become a beta user for “the seamless” as well as future betas we release, send an email to beta-users@gingersoftware.com and we will add you to our list.

Adios for now -

Sharon and the Ginger team

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