Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Don't trust automatic hyphenating


The automatic hyphenating feature built into Microsoft Word and other word processing software can save time when you're working on a big document -- particularly if your lines are set "justified" rather than flush-left, ragged-right.

Unfortunately, the software doesn't know everything. Sometimes it has to guess, and like people, it can make mistakes.

English is consistently inconsistent and its "rules" are often violated or inadequate. ("I before E except after C, except when pronounced 'ay' as in neighbor or weigh" doesn't deal with "seize" or "their" or "science.")

Mr. Gates's software often assumes that the letter "e" indicates the end of a syllable as in "be-come" and "cre-ate" and this results in errors like "se-ize" and "cre-dit."

MS Word recognizes that "par" is a common syllable, which causes it to make bizarre errors like "par-chment."

Words that can have two meanings and can be pronounced in two ways cause problems.

MS Word can't distinguish between "minute" (the noun) and "minute" (the adjective). It assumes you mean the noun, and will give you "min-ute" even when you want "mi-nute."

You're also in trouble if you rely on automatic hypnenation and have proper names. Word broke up "Panasonic" as "Pa-nasonic" instead of "pan-asonic" or "Pana-sonic."

So now you have another reason to proofread very carefully, and never have complete faith in robots.

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