back to article Brits find accommodation a little uncomfortable

Hot on the heels of the shock news that native speakers of English struggle to spell "embarrassment", a net search engine analysis of "which words received the most queries requesting a correct spelling" revealed that Brits find "accommodation" the most challenging. That's according to Ask.com, which also fingered "accessory …

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  1. Martin

    I wud doo it betterer

    But mi smell chicken is broked !

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Does u cre8

    Flamees bout spellin nd gramma to booste advertizing revenuees.

  3. BossHog
    Thumb Up

    Manouevre? Maneouvre? Manuoevre?

    I always liked "manoeuvre" as a tough spelling.

    Of course you'd have to be an "oeuf" not to have a mnemonic for it...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This includes typos, not just spelling mistakes

    I have no trouble spelling "February", but I find the word fantastically difficult to type, for some reason. When I tried to type it just now it came out as "Februrary" on the first attempt.

  5. Richard Gadsden

    It's just beaurocracy

    Beaurocratic spelling masters.

    PS to world: It's bureaucratic, as in world-run-by-an-office (bureau).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Teaching spelling

    I'm curious to know if schools have actually worked out how to teach spelling yet. Maybe younger readers or those with children could comment?

    When I was at school (70s/80s) their only method was to tell you to learn them and threaten you with physical or other punishment if you failed to do so. It didn't work for me - fear of getting words wrong actually made it more difficult to get them right, and "creative" writing was dominated by constructing sentences that avoided difficult words. It came to dominate my whole school experience; I truanted during the last few years of primary school to avoid spelling tests and it went downhill from there. I remember once being severely castigated - literally, made to go and stand in the corner - for claiming that within a few years all our communication would be electronic and the machines would check our spelling for us. Knowing that I was right does not really make me feel much better about it now.

    So when I see stories like this, I just wonder if the people who do these studies actually think about the damage that they can cause to people. Rather than enumerating all the words that people can't spell (and I notice that they're mostly the same ones that I have problems with - single vs. double consonants in longer words like "tomorrow"), perhaps they could instead spend their time working out how best to teach spelling to those who find it difficult.

  7. Joe K

    Engrish

    I would have thought it would be the word nessesery.....necassery... nesesscery?

    You know the one.

  8. Xander

    Bone Idleness?

    Why does everyone assume this is the case? Here's a thought; you go to spell a word you've not spelt in a while and you just need that little confirmation. Do you write indubidably and just go for it or take 3 seconds to check and find out it's actually indubitably?

    I'd be interested to see the figures for "number of spelling errors in letters" over the last 20 years. I really wood.

  9. amanfromMars Silver badge

    A Country of Dunces is a Vulnerable Society, easily Abused and Used for Labour

    Education, Education, Education ... Missing, Missing, Missing

  10. Mark Lockwood Silver badge
    Coat

    I think we should fight against these spelling fascists

    Follow me, comrades, dyslexic IT workers of the world untie

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Maneuver

    American English is good for something.

    Two things that happen when I type quickly: 1) the messages from brain to fingers take longer depending on which finger, thus I tend to type teh a lot instead of the; and 2) I might think 'their', but 'there' is what comes out.

    The second one happens a lot when I touch-type. I learned a long time ago to go back a look things over, and I still miss things occasionally.

  12. Steve

    One solution

    Fail the kids who get their spelling wrong in their exams. Nothing concentrates the mind like a resit.

    It doesn't fit with the "branding them as failures will scar the little darlings for life" arseholes that run the education system these days, but hopefully we'll be able to vote them out soon.

    @BossHogg: As for manœuvre, you just have to remember that there´s an œ ligature in the middle, and the rest just works.

  13. Oliver Mayes

    I find it amazing

    that so many of our younger customer service automata don't know the difference between words such as 'are' and 'our' . I've seen dozens of emails being sent out to our customers containing phrases like "it dosnt look like thers a problem with your acount, but iv forwarded your query to the relivant person in acounts". I'm only 23 but even I think that the standards of schools must have slipped since my day.

  14. Cthonus
    Thumb Down

    A propos the apostrophe

    I'd swear there were people in my office actively breeding apostrophes. The little blighters are everywhere these day's [sic].

  15. null
    Dead Vulture

    This is good

    "The reasons? Yup, you guessed it: Text speak, reliance on spellcheckers and general bone idleness are about to consign our beloved mother lingo to orthographical oblivion."

    How? Our current reliance on text based communication is good for the language in my opinion. People who would never have written a letter 50 years ago now find themselves writing every day. I know that I for one probably wouldn't be writing .1% of the amount I do if it weren't for the internet. Furthermore, it encourages non-readers to read. The fact that people are motivated to use spell checkers and electronic dictionaries instead of just not caring is a good thing. Imagine if people weren't using these facilities; you'd see corruption of the language on an unprecedented scale.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    And talking of plots.....

    Isn't this just a ploy by the makers of QWERTY keyboards, and the like, to force us to become "textually brainwashed" [is that spelt correctly ?] - it all started with SMS txt msgs and thn thngs gt a lttl outta hand.

  17. Gareth

    Dog bites man

    It rather brings to mind the image of walrus-mustached old men sitting in a smoky club off Harvey Street complaining that the blasted telegraph has led to a terrible decline in spelling and grammar.

    Plus ca change, as the plucky Frenchies would say.

  18. Code Monkey

    Accountants

    Try Googling for accountants who don't know there's an "o" in their profession.

    Credit where it's due: I read that on NTK a damned long time ago.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Well...

    ...if people don't know the different between lose/loose, to/too, its/it's, affect/effect; what do you expect?

    Those four are simple examples that you see every day in the comments pages from supposedly intelligent people.

  20. gareth

    how did ...

    ask.com even get any data

    does anyone even use it to search any more

    well i suppose only people who don't know any better use it which may be why they have such trouble spelling

  21. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    Actually

    I remember such 'txt spk' being used in IRC a long time ago. I'll bet there were other places too before that, but I'm only young :)

    I absolutely hate how little emphasis is put on correct spelling and grammar today. For one thing it makes things more difficult to read. I often use abbreviations in text messages, but normally when I've run out of my 160 characters and need to compress it.

    A friend told me something interesting recently, though (a teacher). A student taking an English Language GCSE exam can write the entire paper in txt spk and still acheive 95%! They can only penalise 5% for spelling, punctuation and grammar, ON AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE EXAM!!

  22. Robajob

    Guarantee?

    Who the hell can't spell guarantee?

    Broccoli, now that's a tricky one.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Knock nock

    if you want to keep the language all complicated, start adding to it. Has to be witty additions, various ironic plays on words and linguistics.

    Otherwise, we are headed to the lowest common denominator, and we will all end up speaking like the Germans, you know, all logical and all that.

  24. Andy Bright

    Firefox FTW

    Embarrassment, no problem, been corrected so many times by Firefox that I actually know how to spell this now. Accommodation (spelled wrong, right click, Firefox to the rescue). Accessories, hmm am I seeing a pattern here.

    It seems we do know what letters to stick in a word, just not how many we should use.

    I bet 99.99% of the spelling errors you're talking about come from not putting in double letters where they're needed. Unfortunately even the usually wrong "i before e but not after c and except where we decided to do things differently" bullshit rule won't help there.

  25. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Litteral pronounciation

    Simplifying spelling would involve rewriting all books and making old books somewhat inaccessible to future readers. On the other hand, pronouncing words as they are spelt is cheap. Hands up everyone who is prepared to sound like a twit so children will not have to waste so much time learn how to spell.

  26. Andrew Macdonald
    Flame

    Not just the spelling

    It isn't just the spelling, it's its and it's. And am I not bored with this, not bored of it?

    And for fricking hell's sake, what is "I should of...." supposed to mean?

    Quick spellcheck and off to a darkened room with the Daily Telegraph.

  27. Anonymous John
    Joke

    "the silent 'p' in 'receipt'", as the Telegraph puts it."

    The "p" is silent, as in swimming pool.

  28. david
    Coat

    @ JoeK:Necessary

    Never eat cress eat salmon sandwiches and remain young

    or was it

    never eat cheese croissants eat scrambled egg really yellow

  29. Quirkafleeg
    Go

    Re: I find it amazing

    “that so many of our younger customer service automata don't know the difference between words such as 'are' and 'our' .”

    Eye wood two, given that they sound significantly different; unlike, for example, ‘hour’ and ‘our’.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title

    Dyslexia is a sign of a misspelt youth.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    I don't have a problem

    If people's spelling is poor that doesn't necessarily mean that they are stupid. Some people just have more difficulty spelling than other people. What does annoy me is when they just send the e-mail anyway without spell checking it. In the days before spell-checkers, spelling mistakes were something that you were stuck with. These days their is no excuse.

    More acceptable are mistakes because of words like: there; their; they're. In those cases it is often just a misunderstanding. Similarly with punctuation.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Society for the Preservation of the Ligature

    Manœuvre

    That is all.

  33. Michael

    There's a reason

    There's a reason there are two different language codes for English (EN) and American English (EU). We get simplified spelling. Maneuver rather than manoeuvre, -er rather than -re, program rather than programme, and what in the hell is with all the extra "U"s running around?? Colour? What possible use does the U have in this word? None, you say? Then extricate it!!

    Granted, it should probably be changed entirely, to "kuller', but I digress.

    The issue with textspeak is the same as with ebonics. Kids these days think everyone else is supposed to use their ridiculous language, rather than themselves using correct spellings of words. Little bastards.

    Post Script: I tried to misspell a bunch of commonly misspelled words, but it just annoyed me, so I had to go back and fix it all...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never mind spelling 'February'

    How the fuck do you pronounce it?

  35. pctechxp

    Is it me or...

    Did what amanfromMars just say make sense for once (well the main bit but the title had its trademarked oddness)

    I could read newspapers from when I was four and was pretty much given words to learn during my schooling.

    Think they use something called synthetic phonics now but not idea how that works but heres a Google search string I prepared earlier http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=Synthetic+phonics&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

    Knock yourselves out.

  36. Graham Marsden
    Coat

    Dew knott...

    ... putt awl yore trussed in spill chequers!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Idiots

    Seriously, I never considered myself amazing at spelling, but I find that in these news stories, I have no problem with 95% of the words used as examples.

    I suppose the country's average IQ is pulled down by all the chav scum who are only literate enough to claim benefits...

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oxford English Dictionary

    Am I the only one who uses dictionary.com instead of the Oxford English Dictionary?

    Why do I do that, when dictionary.com uses US English and I don't?

    It's simply that whilst access to Oxford English Dictionary online is free via the local library, you need to remember your passwords for the library and the dictionary and login every time. I don't have to do that to use dictionary.com.

    I really really wish the government would put some of that huge pork barrel reserve into simply making the Oxford English Dictionary free for everyone everywhere, without restriction. I suspect that English-English usage would blossom overnight, and it would be a genuinely useful resource for everyone with an internet connection.

  39. Another Anonymous Coward

    dont loose you're cool...

    Aoccdrnig to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervisy, it deosn’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 reset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lterter by istelf, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig eh? And I awlyas tohghut slpeling was imporantt…! And for thsoe of you wtih mroe tmie tahn ohrets, you wlli ntocie taht not olny are msot of the wrosd a mses but smoe of tehm are cpmlpoetley msiseplt awslel…!

  40. Sam Radford
    Thumb Up

    Bring back the birch!

    The mere threat of a caning had a most salutary effect on my spelling. "Bring it back", ses I.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 16:46, AC 19:27

    "...if people don't know the different between lose/loose, to/too, its/it's, affect/effect; what do you expect?

    Those four are simple examples that you see every day in the comments pages from supposedly intelligent people."

    "What does annoy me is when they just send the e-mail anyway without spell checking it."

    Thank you both. It sums up one of the things that makes my blood boil on here.

    Re Oxford English DIctionary, 01:50 :

    "Am I the only one who uses dictionary.com instead of the Oxford English Dictionary?"

    No, sadly.

    "Why do I do that, when dictionary.com uses US English and I don't?"

    Because you're an idiot? Why not just buy a Concise OED from Smiths? Or are you like that plonker in a bit of 'Jericho' I caught the other day on TV (something else you can do without a PC.) Convinced that once they got the Internet running again everyhing would be OK. They could set up a virtual country. With virtual cities. And be President.

    Normal Person : "What if we want - stuff?"

    Nerd Boy : "We can just order it off the Internet!"

    People who haven't read the comments section here might mistake that for gentle irony.

  42. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Necessary dress code?

    One 'c'ollar, two 'socks' (ss)

    my arse.

  43. michael

    being teached how to spell

    being dyslexic I had enormous trouble at school learning how to spell and actuality got expled over a spelling test once but my main trouble with it is

    HOW THE FUDGE ARE WE MEANT TO KNOW WHAT THE RIGHT WAY TO SPELL THEM IS????

    it is not like maths where it is sensible and logical the best I can do is to try to spell most things phonetiley but with the verity of ways of prouncing things that some times makes matters worse best example of this is my way of spelling pepol witch is exactly how I pronounce it but witch a spell checker will not even give me the real spelling for

  44. Kae Verens

    one to talk...

    *ahem* http://search.theregister.co.uk/?q=accomodation

    looks like you're one to talk!

  45. Geoff Bin In
    Boffin

    i before e

    If you are going to use the "i bfore e..." aid, then you need to use the full rhyme:-

    i before e

    except after c

    when the sound is ee

    This then works most of the time, e.g. field, receive & height.

  46. A J Stiles
    Coat

    Immigrants speak better English than native-born Britons

    I was always taught that bad spelling and grammar are a discourtesy to one's audience.

    When I was at school, we were issued with notebooks specifically for writing down "difficult" words (it's hard to look a word up in the dictionary if you don't know how to spell it in the first place). And we had posters on the walls showing the correct uses of easily-confused words (e.g. "Will this affect me? / Look at the effect it had on me!", "Whose is this and who's going to remove it?") There were never issues with "loose" / "lose", though; probably because, in my local accent, "lose" rhymes with "nose".

    It's time we started taking spelling and grammar seriously. Withdrawing benefits from the illiterate would be a good start. Now I'll get my pipe and my slippers and .... HEY! YOU KIDS! GET OFF MY LAWN!

  47. Britt Johnston
    Coat

    February workaround

    no job application till March, then

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Out of date

    The simple fact is that UK-English is very much out of data and needs a serious workover. Most other languages have had rulling maintinance but it seems that UK-English is stuck at the back shelf and have gone stale. There is a middle ground between Colour and kuller or message and mgs.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    u shud cee mii handrieting

    even i cannot read it....

    and i work in IT

    please dont ask me to take notes during a meeting. :(

    a drunk spider freshly dipped in ink could do a better more intelligble job.

    but then again, considering the quality of IT staff these days, i welcome our arachnid overlords into the IT fraternity.

    mines the ones covered in spider silk......

  50. Tom
    Unhappy

    Just one point...

    When I was at primary school in the mid 80's we were never picked up on incorrect spellings. We could write pages, and pages of text but would never have incorrect spellings pointed out to us to be corrected. Not quite sure what this was supposed achieve, but several local schools also did this.

    My parents were both subjected to some weird phoetic spelling, with additional symbols, experiment when they were at school so their spelling is bad as well.

    Also how much of this mis-spelling is just simple typos?

  51. Richard Rae
    Thumb Down

    text speak... really?

    Not sure if this has dawned on people yet... but when I was at school, not that long ago but admittably in France and not here, we were taught how to spell way before we were allowed near computers etc...

    So if the average person in this country is taught to spell at age 13-14 on the computer or the mobile, then there is a problem....

    Where as the younger ones using the machines, I think that you will find that the programs are designed to teach them spelling.

    When I was at school, we were graded out of 20, the higher the mark, the better and 20 being perfect, that including spelling. In every single discipline we were required to spell correctly, and around 5 points of the overall was dedicated to it. If you made the very very stupid mistake of spelling your name wrong, it was an instant fail. The logic was, if you can't spell your name, then you must not be able to answer the questions put to you!

    Harsh, but much better. I regularly see letters, emails and other communications go out with spelling mistakes and punctuation flaws. And people wonder why if I have children I flatly refuse to put them through education in this country!!

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Anon John

    it's silent like the "p" in bath, but not like the "q" in Tesco.

  53. Francis Offord
    Boffin

    SPLEEING

    The problem starts in the junior school where correct spelling is not encouraged, loike it were when I were a buoy. Spelling, Grammar, Context and content seem to have been missed by modern teachers, and their teachers also. The old saying goes; that those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, teach the teachers. From my observation it has more than a ring of truth to it.

  54. John Angelico
    Boffin

    @Geoff Bin In: I before E

    Thank you so much! Would someone please give that gentleman a Knighthood?

    That is the first time I have seen the rule set out in full in these fora - in fact anywhere outside homeschooling lists. I keep promising myself that I will do as you did whenever this topic arises.

    That leaves only five exceptions: seize, weird, foreign, counterfeit, protein (plus neither if pronounced ee),

    Down Under, we are subjected to cultural imperialism from both sides of the Pond, but have defaulted to US English (sorry Blighty!) for many decades.

    The anti-phonics "whole language/look-say" brigade is dominant in the child-minding centres which masquerade as our education system.

    The troops decry pure phonics with half of the I before E rule, and then loudly complain that there are so many exceptions that it isn't worth learning, so the English language therefore MUST BE a random mess (which they as experts have to fix up - HA!)

    Nevertheless, parents still hear about and demand phonics, although it is not easy to find all 29 spelling rules (that's all there are!), and the requisite teachers of pure phonics to preserve the general orderliness of the English language.

    <Sigh> Ah, even nostalgia isn't what it used to be! :-)

  55. Jamie Kephalas
    Stop

    That's not the correct attitude...

    "However, when it comes to formal letters and even job applications, they need to get the correct spellings in place."

    I fail to understand how, if a certain person cannot spell correctly in everyday life, that they should be allowed to produce one document (in this case a CV) to show literacy skills. I believe they need to use correct spelling and pronunciation in all forms of communication.

    Maybe remove the 160 character limit for sms based messages to allow for full English to be used?

    Maybe 5.5.6 (I might implement this on my server in fact) e-mails which contain more than x amount of spelling errors or abbreviated words like "yea" when "yes" would suffice with the same number of keystrokes.

    Maybe a good old speech from a certain Microsoft exec before school everyday? "Spelling, spelling, spelling, spelling, spelling"... and so on and so forth.

    In fact, I'm bored of this, where's my BOFH?

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Ah yes

    You may have borrowed beyond your means, re-mortgaged to take advantage of house prices that would always rise and bought everything on credit.

    And who could have thought that there might be a problem with everyone in the land investing £200 a month in a pension scheme?

    But clearly you are a genius and everyone else is stupid because you can correct their spelling and punctuation mistakes.

    That kind of Muppet

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    The real problem...

    ... is that they don't teach the little bastards Latin or Greek any more.

    Every time I see some journo or politico using the phrase 'The criteria is...', I think smugly to myself, 'Omg wtf lol'.

  58. Duncan Jeffery

    Irony

    The irony is that as English becomes the dominant world language, we may find that non-native users become more proficient than our current 'scholars'. Thus, our youth will have thrown away the one potential advantage they had in the world marketplace.

  59. Alien8n Silver badge

    BBC news

    If you want to see how bad it's getting, just read a few stories on the BBC news site.

    Nearly every story nowadays contains spelling and grammatical errors.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprising

    My son gets e-mails from his university's accommodation office with the word spelled incorrectly. It's impossible to follow links to their web pages as they have /accommodation in them or at least the actual pages do, the links have a variation of it. To avoid embarrassment, ahah got the two troulesome words in the same comment, the university shall remain unidentified as it's supposedly one of the better traditional ones.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Ah Yes from AC

    In answer to all those affronted....

    >>You may have borrowed beyond your means, re-mortgaged to take advantage of house prices

    >>that would always rise and bought everything on credit.

    No. I/We expected some sort of crash, and whilst not specifically planning for it, have managed to avoid much of the consequence so far. That's not of course to say things may not get worse.

    >>And who could have thought that there might be a problem with everyone in the land investing £200 a month in a pension scheme?

    Invested more than that.

    >>But clearly you are a genius and everyone else is stupid because you can correct their spelling and punctuation mistakes.

    Not a genius. I just had an education that taught me to spell and which included basic Greek and Latin (although I dropped out of O level Latin - I was c**p).

    >> That kind of Muppet

    Oh, that kind.

  62. BioTube
    Boffin

    English spelling crisis

    The problem is that we're squeezing our language into a tiny 26-letter alphabet; in addition, some of our spellings haven't been updated since before the Great Vowel Shift(even over here). Webster describes pronunciation with a list of symbols defined as "the 'E' in 'j[b]e[/b]t'" and the like - this has the benefit of adjusting for dialectal differences, but not when pronunciations have differing numbers of syllables. A pure phonetic alphabet could lead to confusion, since people will have to live with the fact that some words are pronounced drastically different(one of my biggest spelling problems is that I always want to leave out 'al' before 'ly', since I don't pronounce it); we'd need a larger alphabet to even try, though(Futhorc had around 33 letters, IIRC).

    As for "lose/loose, it isn't much of a problem over here AFAIK since they sound very different('lose' rhymes with 'snooze', 'loose' with 'noose'(or 'goose', if you're sensitive)). What really bugs me is when people write 'insure' when they mean 'ensure'(and I personally think that the written tongue shouldn't be any more or less confusing than the spaken).

  63. Richard Russell
    Thumb Up

    @John Angelico

    "That is the first time I have seen the rule set out in full in these fora - in fact anywhere outside homeschooling lists. I keep promising myself that I will do as you did whenever this topic arises.

    That leaves only five exceptions: seize, weird, foreign, counterfeit, protein (plus neither if pronounced ee),"

    Not quite. The full rule includes "seize" as the exception (although proper names also put the 'e' before the 'i' - Keith, Sheila, etc)

    "weird" is not an /ee/ sound but a diphthong. It's a slide from /i/ (as in 'big') to /er/ (as in 'lurk'), and the vowel is spelt 'eir'. In all the other words you mention the 'ei' bit is unstressed. The 'ei' in 'foreign' is what they call a schwa (the first sound in 'about'). 'Counterfeit', 'caffeine' and 'protein' are the ones to watch, though.

    But it's still worth repeating: 'i' before 'e' except after 'c', when the sound is /ee/, with the exception of 'seize'.

  64. Richard Russell
    Stop

    @ Ayonuonms Crawod

    "Aoccdrnig to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervisy, it deosn’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.

    tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lterter by istelf, but the wrod as a wlohe."

    Actually, that is total bollocks and it's time the myth was exploded.

    First off, if it were really true that we "read the word as a whole" we would have no trouble reading the words 'hidlaoy', 'furtvaioe', moadew', ratmoniac' and 'snoced', all common words with first and last letters intact.

    Second, it takes on average 3-6 times longer to read such jumbled passages than correct text. You can check this by timing people as they read them. The more jumbled they are the longer it takes to read. (And BTW, your passage was not jumbled all that much, was it?)

    Third, it takes only slightly longer to read passages in which the first and SECOND letter - not the last - are in their correct places, suggesting that the last letter has no special significance. You can check this by, well, use your imagination.

    The real reason these passages are relatively easy to read (they're not actually that easy, are they - not after a few lines) is that we rely on the large amount of contextual information they contain, together with a certain amount of unscrambling to reach recognisable spellings. Both processes are inefficient and time-consuming: that is the reason they take so much longer to read.

    Because of the first-and-last rule all words of up to three letters are intact and all four letter words are immediately and unambiguously decipherable. This leaves practically the whole of the grammatical structure intact. You can check this by removing all the jumbled letters and leaving only the ones that can be unambiguously read.

    After that, all you need to do is crack a couple of the shorter 'content' words and the field of meaning becomes clear enough for us to anticipate what the other words are likely to be. With a little unscrambling we can confirm our hunches. You can check this by slipping in a phrase that is completely out of context. No one will be able to guess it. Contrast this with how easy it is to boil cod in vinegar spot an out-of-context phrase in properly spelt text.

    But don't take my word for it - check it out for yourself. It's what your critical faculty is for.

    Efficient reading is actually a complex of many acquired skills, but without pre-existing and reasonably accurate knowledge of how a word is spelt you can't identify it in text (obviously!) In fact, as eye-scans show, we do actually trace the contours of the letters from left to right, monitoring the spelling as we go. When we record a match we 'see' the word; when we don't we resort to less efficient methods.

    BTW, did anybody ever track down that "Cambridge University" source?

  65. Richard Russell
    Alien

    Jumbled illustration

    Actually, all you ElReg guys can help me out here with a survey.

    Can you read ALL the words in this jumbled sentence?

    My gahadfrentr was a klidny but tiractun iddaivunil who eervy day at bareksfat ate foetuern selics of tasot, sveen beliod eggs, rulbiet the ohstuoue, and dnark fvie mgus of bcalk cefofe.

    Take your time.

    *

    *

    *

    OK, did you have trouble with "rulbiet the ohstuoue"?

    (Posted in the interests of honest research)

    Alien, because "rulbiet the ohstuoue" is very rude where he comes from.

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