WordPal for iPhone review

What WordPal lacks in charm it attempts to make up for in utility. It is a reference app with a great deal of potential, and how could it not be? The English language is so complex, everyone from the casual dabbler to the professional scribbler needs a guide to avoid its pernicious pitfalls.

WordPal’s interface is austere. At launch, you see a primitive menu listing Word Spelling and Word Usage. And that’s it. Tap on Word Usage and you’re given a list of commonly confused words and their proper usage. Tap Word Spelling and you get a list of frequently misspelled words, similar to a dictionary but without pronunciations or definitions.

The lists are helpful, but simply do not go far enough. Word mavens will feel tempted first to seek out their favourite corruptions of the language. Invariably, they will find themselves saying, “Why didn’t they include...?” Here are a few that didn’t make WordPal’s cut: all right v alright, acute v chronic, avenge v revenge and founder v flounder. Users will come up with enough of their own to double or triple the size of WordPal’s lists in no time.

One obvious remedy would be to introduce customisation to the app and let users add their own commonly misspelled or misappropriated words. Barring that, the developers shouldn’t release an update without beefier content. It would be nice if WordPal cross-referenced its spelling and usage lists.

Limited as the lists may be, the menus really need an A-Z scroller. Our fingers nearly cramped as we scrolled through the commonly misspelled words. (Okay, we exaggerate – but only a little.) This should be an easy technical addition to a future update.

OUR VERDICT

We doubt that any app could ever replace Bill Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words or Fowler’s Modern English Usage, but WordPal deserves credit for aiming for a simple, easy-to-use language guide for the iPhone and iPod touch. Over time, an app such as WordPal will be a welcome and worthy addition to any self-respecting writer’s reference-app collection.

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