Bite-sized Tips No. 23: Spellings – Part 18 – Disagreements with the Dragon

Red DragonMy apologies for taking so long to get around to writing another Bite-sized Tips post. This one has been on my to-do list for a while, as have many others. In fact I could quite happily spend my entire working life writing for my blog were it not for the need to earn a living!

Last time I looked at ten spellings that DNS gets right when I’m dictating. Today I’m focusing on ten that DNS does not get right according to the New Oxford Style Manual, which I base both my work and this series on. And if I can’t find what I’m looking for in the style manual, I turn to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

I first started highlighting some differences between what Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) dictates and correct spellings in Oxford in no. 20 of this series, Watch out for the Dragon.

If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, you’ll find the full list of previous posts in the Bite-sized Tips series here. And my post Why All the Fuss about Spellings and Style Guides? explains why I believe it’s important to use a style manual and bother about all these details in the first place.

Recently, I’ve noticed a few things that really annoy me about DNS and which I certainly need to pay a lot of attention to when checking through my own work before delivery to the client.

1. The first is that Dragon often adds “ed” onto the end of verbs even though I’m certain I didn’t pronounce them that way. Take preform for example. Although I managed to get DNS to type this correctly in the end, the software definitely showed a preference for typing preformed and even pre-form on occasion. The Microsoft spellchecker is perfectly happy with preform, but it highlights preformed as potentially incorrect.

2. Another is its habit of inserting “a” or “the” when I’m convinced I said nothing of the sort. Perhaps the mic is picking up my breathing pauses and DNS is just too eager to write something.

3. Dragon also sometimes changes “the” to “their” and “an” to “and”. Careful checking is in order after dictating to make sure mistakes like these don’t end up in the final version of the translation.

4. Some words, such as programme/program, are spelled differently in UK English depending on what they are referring to. DNS is not always going to choose the right spelling for the context, so again, we need to pay attention and either correct as we dictate or revise the document very carefully for this type of error.

5. DNS sometimes changes the spelling of a term from one word to two depending on whether you are dictating the singular or plural version. For example, dance floor = two words according to Oxford, but one word according to Microsoft Word. DNS types dancefloor as one word, thus agreeing with the spellchecker, but dance floors as two, thus agreeing with Oxford. Another example is megahit. It’s one word according to the OED (it’s not in Oxford), and DNS duly agrees when you dictate the singular. Make it plural, however, and it starts typing mega hits.

As I’ve mentioned several times, the most important aspect of all this in our work is to be consistent throughout a document and across documents for the same client. Consequently, even if you don’t want to strictly follow the spellings in Oxford, as I usually do unless told to use a different style guide, you need to decide on one spelling, make a note of it and stick to it for that client.

To round off today’s ten, here are some spellings DNS does not get right.

6. hang-gliding, hang-glide and hang-glider = hyphenated according to Oxford. DNS writes them all as two words.

7. data sheet = two words according to the OED (not mentioned in Oxford). DNS writes datasheet.

8. head teacher = two words, although headmaster and headmistress are both written as one word. DNS types this as one word, although the Microsoft Word spellchecker highlights this as incorrect. I suspect that this will be written as one word in the future.

9. storm-water = hyphenated according to the OED (it’s not in Oxford). DNS disagrees and writes stormwater and the spellchecker in Word wants to correct this to two words.

10. water sports = two words. DNS persistently writes this as one word (even when dictating the singular), which luckily the Microsoft spellchecker highlights as incorrect.

Bite-sized Tips No. 22: Spellings – Part 17 – The Dragon Agrees

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