March 16, 2003
How might you drag a good writer's work down to the level of a lesser scribe? Try the spell-check button. A study at the University of Pittsburgh indicates spell-check software may level the playing field between people with differing levels of language skills, hampering the work of writers and editors who place too much trust in the software. Microsoft technical specialist Tim Pash said grammar and spelling technology is meant to help writers and editors, not solve all their problems. The study found the software helped students find and correct errors in the letter, but in some cases they also changed phrases or sentences flagged by the software as grammatically suspicious, even though they were correct. Richard Stern (right), a computer and electrical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University specializing in speech-recognition technology, said grammar and spelling software will never approach the complexity of the human mind. "Computers can decide the likelihood of correct speech, but it's a percentage game," he said. Stern is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Computer Science and an Associate Director of the Information Networking Institute.
Headshot of Richard Stern