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This question arose after I noticed that a lot of the questions and answers here (and in other forums) have spelling and grammatical mistakes. I personally am very finicky about these things. Are all programmers like that? I feel it's directly tied in to the attention to detail that programmers have, and also a desire to get things right.

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closed as off-topic by MichaelT, Florian Margaine, M. Dudley, gnat, ChrisF Oct 30 '13 at 17:24

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I wish programmers would stop spelling it "lenght". Very frustrating when middleware has "height" spelled correctly and "lenght" spelled wrong throughout the codebase. –  dash-tom-bang Sep 29 '10 at 18:01
Are there any IDEs with a spell checker? –  John Shaft May 5 '11 at 11:21
@Pablo IntelliJ has, it highlights misspelled incidents. Flame on! –  MalsR May 5 '11 at 11:28
@Pablo there is an extension for Visual Studio (called Spell Checker) but it does comments, strings, and the stuff between the tags on web pages. Not variables or function names. A start, though. –  Kate Gregory May 5 '11 at 11:28
This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about programming at all. –  Florian Margaine Oct 30 '13 at 12:43
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14 Answers

Being a programmer means you have to be very concerned about details, because small things such as forgetting to write "=<" instead of "<" could produce very different effects. So I believe programmers are very picky about details in general; noticing spelling errors is just a side-effect.

Also, spelling errors can also lead to problems with requirements being unclear or ambiguous.

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Definitely +1 for linking it to requirement documents getting messed up. –  Panzercrisis Oct 30 '13 at 12:30
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I'm known in our office as the nit-picky guy who always points out spelling errors in other people's PowerPoint presentations. So one meeting I just stuffed it and let one go. At the end of the slide, someone else piped up, "Hey Tom, didn't you notice such and such was misspelled?" So now I'm back to being the spelling cop again.

(You'll also notice a lot of my posts are edited, like this one -- usually for grammatical errors I discover after the fact.)

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Editing the posts after posting. Sounds SO familiar :) I often read back my comment and spot a set of spelling/grammar mistakes. I am so glad there is an edit function :) –  Gertjan May 5 '11 at 12:02
You could have passed the baton on there :) –  user1249 May 8 '12 at 16:32
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Are all programmers like that?

No. I'm sure you've encountered developers who cannot spell, and don't care that their code and documentation is full of spelling and grammatical errors.

Actually, I think peoples' ability spell and write grammatical English is more strongly correlated with:

  • having English as their first language, and
  • going to a school that emphasized good spelling and grammar.

And the second point means that there is a correlation with age ... since educators generally tend to place less emphasis on spelling and grammar these days.


Maybe I should rephrase my question as "Are all good programmers like that?"

Again no. There are lots of excellent programmers whose first language is not English, and who (understandably) have problems with English spelling and grammar. You knew that, didn't you.

However, excellent programmers are undoubtedly good at picking holes in other people's logic :-)

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I have encountered such devs. Btw, English is not my first language, but I read a lot (always have), and hopefully my English is not so bad :). Maybe I should rephrase my question as "Are all good programmers like that?". –  talonx Sep 29 '10 at 11:48
There's another point: if your parents emphasized "correct" English. Schools aren't solely responsible for one's education. –  dash-tom-bang Sep 29 '10 at 18:02
@dash you forget that there is an entire universe where English is not the first language ; nor is it spoken . It is only studied so that the person can become "business ready" in the english speaking world. So the parents may not know english at all. I live in a country where you can find a guy with excellent english; one with passable ; and one completely illeterate in the language all in the same room –  Ritwik G May 5 '11 at 11:35
Ryuzaki- no doubt. I know many have fun picking on the English skills of non-native speakers, but those people are assholes. I think my point still stands, though; if your parents think that "correct" English is important and set that example, it gives a person a huge advantage in learning it correctly. If your parents don't speak English, it'd be tough for them to help you in your learning of that subject (as my parents could not help me learn French, and I am still terrible at it). –  dash-tom-bang May 13 '11 at 21:58
One of my colleagues is a really good programmer but he's dyslexic –  Carlo Kuip Oct 25 '11 at 13:27
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Very much so in my case. Some people call me "the grammar Nazi". I often find myself arguing with my boss not only about design and code, but also about grammar and spelling, as well as proper terminology - i.e. it's not because an expression means "this" that it is appropriate to use it "here." Our applications have to be available in both English and French, so that doubles the fun. :) English is my second language though, and I'm still learning. And it's not like French is that easy either. Some people take it the wrong way when we correct them, but personally I see it as a learning opportunity. In fact I'll take it the wrong way if someone notices an error I made - especially if I do it often - and doesn't tell me. :)

I find it's important not only in the delivered applications (if anything, that's professionalism), but also in code comments. We've had several people work on our project, and sometimes I run into comments so plagued with spelling and grammar mistakes that I'm not even sure what the hell they're saying...

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Oh, terminology is indeed a good point. Someone looking for a fool-proof way to add unnecessary complexity to the code? Use inconsistent and ambiguos terminologies! People will start to pull out garlic and holy water just to protect themselves against the curse of having to maintain your code! –  JensG Oct 30 '13 at 13:14
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It's not specific to programming world. It's everywhere.

The problem is that the common language on the internet is English.

But that's the native language of only a part of the people involved in communities.

Too many native english speakers forget that.

My native language is not English, and I do my best to write it correctly. I think it's what most of us do.

I always appreciate when someone edits my post as it helps me to learn. That's the most constructive approach.

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Ahem. It's "English" :-). –  Mark Peters Sep 29 '10 at 12:57
+1 for learning by seeing Edits. –  jmort253 Feb 19 '11 at 21:45
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When communicating, be it in code or email/documentation, etc, I strive to write clear, easy to understand text. For example, I use a spell checker extension for VS 2010 which catches misspellings in strings and code comments.

Communication in software development is, for me, a very crucial aspect of success.

Cheers. Jas.

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+1 for "Hi there" lol. We at Stack Exchanges are usually so rude and sarcastic !! this is a welcome change –  Ritwik G May 5 '11 at 11:38
@RYUZAKI: Well, it is considered bad style on SE to include salutations, thanks, or signatures, because it can clutter up what are intended as informational sites. –  Jon Purdy May 5 '11 at 18:47
ya .. i agree!! –  Ritwik G May 6 '11 at 5:00
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I find it interesting that the question, and all the answers so far, have grammatical errors. Clearly this means I am a pedant for spotting them. I don't know many other programmers who are fanatical about correct grammar though.

p.s. I eagerly await a comment that highlights a grammatical error in this answer.

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@harriyott: :( Even though I'm finicky I still make those mistakes :) Please point them out. –  talonx Sep 29 '10 at 10:47
I think I found one - "Clearly this means I am a pedant for spotting them." should be "Clearly this means that I am a pedant for spotting them." –  talonx Sep 29 '10 at 10:53
@talonx "I personally am" - personally is redundant. The last sentence is a little clumsy, and could be rewritten: "I feel it relates to programmers' attention to detail." (The last clause is also redundant.) As for the "that", I'm not sure, but happy to be corrected. n.b. Not sure about the p.s. either. It seems that I'm not a very good pedant (other than being irritating)! –  harriyott Sep 30 '10 at 20:14
@harriyott - Neither am I, and I irritate a lot of people too. But perfection comes with practice :D –  talonx Oct 1 '10 at 4:02
@harriyott - Challenge accepted! Should p.s. be in call caps? I tend to write abbreviations with capital letters, like P.S.. Also, since it's the beginning of a question I think it should be capitalized for that rule as well :) Also, Clearly, this means. I think since clearly is a transitional word, it needs a comma after it, as described in this Transitional Phrase Usage Guide. –  jmort253 Feb 19 '11 at 21:44
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IME , no - I've met an awful lot of programmers that don't read very much, and consequently have awful spelling. It's not strictly a code smell - but something's rotten in Denmark when you're having to preserve references to misspelt object attributes/functions because the damn thing is buried too deep to refactor in the window provided.

I'm truly surprised at the low literacy rates and general interest in reading/writing literature, that I've experienced in my short development career.

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One of our developers here sent us all an email recommending spell checker for VS2010. The first thing that entered my mind was: "What, am I the only one that instinctively knows how to spell???"

Now, I don't mind if people make mistakes in their spelling, as long as it's readable I'm happy. But what I cannot tolerate is when you have a presentation or official documentation and it's riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes. What do you think our client will think of the business if everything is spelt the way u want it coz thts how i read it???

English is my 2nd language and everyone understands that I can make a mistake when I pronounce someting incorrectly or my grammar isn't entirely correct. But it is expected for all of us to write our code, emails, documents and everything else grammatically correct without spelling mistakes

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Generally speaking: No, they aren't. Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but from my experiences the last one who cares about spelling, be it in the UI, with variable names or source code comments, is the programmer. This is even more true if it's not his/her mother tongue.

While I have no formal proof for it, there are a few interesting facts that support this theory: First, an astonishingly number of highly gifted people suffer from dyslexia in one form or another. Second, a similar high percentage of highly gifted people is working in the IT field. So saying "don't care" is probably slightly incorrect, but the same of course applies to the question as well.

By the way, the same can be obvserved when it comes to graphics and UI design: Altough a few people are really gifted with regard to building mind-blowing user interfaces, a lot of the normal developers is not. It's not to say that they are bad developers, but graphics and/or UI may just not be their field of expertise.

Bottom line: The main essence is, that we should be aware of the facts and design processes around the flaws and find someone/something to take care about these areas. A spell checker could be a first step.

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IME, programmers leave it up to the non-programmers doing code reviews to find the spelling and grammatical errors. The programmers focus on the logic errors instead. –  Dunk Oct 30 '13 at 14:20
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I think so. It's probably mostly because when coding a single spelling mistake can degrade code ever-so-quickly.

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One of the first lessons I got as a student of computer engineering was to keep my communications curt. The reason given for this was, I will have a smaller area in which to look for mistakes.

Programmers are not different from others. They do make mistakes in spelling and other parts of their communication. When the communication is with humans, they have the safety net of near infinite capacity of the human mind in correcting the errors and pick up the intended message. When the communication is with computers, the safety net comes in the form of compilers, interpreters, spelling checkers, etc. The communications that slip the watchful eyes of these tools manifest themselves in the form of real life machines behaving weirdly and making it to headlines in the press and media. ATMs malfunctioning, among many is popular in making such headlines.

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Your question is a bit weird.

First you say something about the large amount of spelling and grammar errors on these sites. (Where at least a large part is a programmer) Then you tell you're finicky and wondering if all programmers are.

Obviously by your first observation the answer should be NO.

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I am very nit-picky about grammar and spelling (when it comes to Danish at least), but I do know several programmers that are not. So while it can be true for some I don't think that it is the norm.

It is kind of like music and programming: There are a lot of programmers doing some sort of music, but there are also programmers that don't.

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