The word at your fingertips

WordWizard  has been developed to enable anybody with a limited ability to spell words to identify quickly the word they need, based simply on how they think it is pronounced.

WordWizard: The word at your fingertips

WordWizard has been developed to enable anybody to spell words and to identify quickly the word they need, based simply on how they think it is pronounced. People with a need to develop their literacy skills will find the program particularly useful.

This unique program builds on and develops the user’s ability to sound out words. Based on this, appropriately typed input enables words to be quickly and accurately spelt. By using WordWizard, the user quickly gains an understanding of the often bizarre relationship between English spelling and pronunciation.

Dealing with the word to be searched for

WordWizard  requires words to be considered in a special way. The first syllable of the word, identified by ‘sounding out’ the word, is called the Crux. If there is more than one syllable, the rest of the word – called the Lock – consists of the remaining syllables.

Representations of the Crux and the Lock are typed into the computer using a simple phonetic coding system which is very similar to that used in phonics teaching in schools.  Forty-five individual phonemes are used: twenty-three are vowels and twenty-two are consonants.  These are shown in the table of phonemes.  WordWizard  contains a facility whereby the user can at any time listen to the sound represented by any written phoneme name.

Having first decided on the make-up of the Crux, the user types the relevant phonemes. WordWizard  then searches through all the words in its 180,000-word dictionary for those which commence with the Crux and displays them in a list. Words are shown in descending order of frequency of  use, along with additional information such as a simple hint as to its meaning. With this assistance the user can search through the list to find the required word.

If the list is full, or the user is unsure which word is appropriate, the user types the first phoneme  of the Lock. The list will normally shrink significantly as a result. As successive phonemes are typed, the list ‘converges’ towards the required word. There is rarely a need to type more than a couple of additional phonemes.

Providing confidence to the user

To provide confidence to the user, the typed input can be checked through text-to-speech (TTS) output which echoes the input. The  Crux or a phoneme  in the Lock is spoken out with a clear human-sounding voice. A British or North American accent can be selected. More details about the TTS system are available on this website.

If the user wishes to backtrack at any point, the most recent phoneme entered can be removed and then an alternative can be typed.

This interactive process gives the user a feeling of complete control over the search for the required word.

Reducing the load on the user

By restricting the intitial effort required to the first syllable, the user is not overwhelmed by the immediate task of considering the intricacies of spelling the whole word. In the case of long words which contain elements which are difficult to spell, the reduction in user stress can be striking.

To further reduce the load on the user, the results table can be filtered. Capitalised words (names of major towns, for example) can be included or omitted. Word frequency limits can be set whereby less common or unusual words are not displayed.

Once a word has been identified as a likely candidate, the inbuilt text-to-speech system can again be used, this time  to confirm its identity. This provides an immediate confirmation as to whether or not the required word has been identified.

Obtaining results

When the user has decided that the required word has been correctly identified it can immediately be transferred to the Windows clipboard for subsequent pasting to a word-processing document, web browser or email.

While the user’s session proceeds, a record is kept on a computer file of all the actions taken. This can be referred to by the user or a tutor after the session has been completed, allowing an analysis to be carried out as to how well the user has performed.

Additional help for the user

In many cases the word (and hence the Crux) is represented by a single syllable. In more complex words the Crux is often a meaningful word in its own right, as for example in the word “rainfall”. In such instances, the user can type the Crux conventionally rather than as a string of phoneme names.

This can assist in two important ways.

First, if the user spells the Crux correctly, confidence is gained. Minor errors can usually be spotted and corrected without the need for using phoneme-based input.

Second, users who are not accomplished in using phoneme-based input can experiment with conventional and phonetic spelling, thereby quickly becoming familiar with the way the language works.

Homophones and heteronym support

Homophones are words which sound alike but are spelt differently, for example “write”, “right” and “rite”. Heteronyms are words that are spelt the same but are pronounced differently, for example “read”. Both of these word types cause problems in written English.

WordWizard enables these special cases to be identified quickly and its dictionary contains thousands of examples, from the commonplace to the unusual.

WordWizard is a registered Trade Mark, protected under relevant UK legislation from December 2019.

WordWizard: Monitor Files

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WordWizard  is now available for purchase or for evaluation. Significant offers are available for a limited period.