Automatically Correcting The Wordpress Mistake

Wondering If The Wrong Logo Is Auto Corrected :)
Who would have guessed that automatically correcting the use of WordPress within the post title and content areas would cause such a flurry of activity. I’ll try to summarize the points of discussion up to this point.

In WordPress 3.0, folks can no longer incorrectly misspell WordPress with a lower case p (WordPress). This use is detected by the following patch (14996) that Matt Mullenweg wrote and was then committed by Andrew Nacin. The code simply adds a filter that looks for WordPress used with a lower case p within the content, the post title, and comment text. If detected, the word is replace by the correct spelling. It’s a very simple patch but its simplicity has met strong resistance from those in the developer circle.

One of the arguments against this patch deals with performance which is discussed earlier on in the comments within ticket 13971.

Then there is the principle of the matter. Should WordPress force the use of a word without consent or recourse? Quite a few people don’t think so. By the way, I’ve seen some people comparing this behaviour to how the iPhone spell checker works. This is an incorrect comparison because the iPhone spellchecker provides an option to use the correct spelling or not. WordPress does not. It automatically uses the correct spelling whether you like it or not, at least when you’re using a lower case p. This is a distinct difference between the two.

Although a minor inconvenience, some of us will be made to look foolish thanks to the auto correction. Those who are well versed in the WordPress community understand the proper spelling. Occasionally, we would write posts to try and inform the masses on how to properly spell the word. In fact, there are a few plugins in existence that performed the same function as this patch, such as the one created by Ozh in 2007. As you can read in his post, the lower case p versions of the word are corrected which is not only confusing since we don’t know what is being corrected, but it generally makes the entire post look like an April Fools joke.

There are also instances in which the patch breaks things as per ticket 13971 where an image file name with a lower case p was automatically changed to a capital P thus breaking the image.

It’s also worth mentioning that Matt did not bypass everyone and put the patch into WordPress. In fact, the idea was run past the other lead developers for WordPress as per Mark Jaquith:

This was run past the other leads. I brought up the argument that this might break a great many links. Matt said that they’d been running it on WordPress.com for several years with, I believe, only one recorded instance of it breaking anything. That satisfied me that this reported bug would occur infrequently.

I understand WordPress.com is a huge testbed for WordPress.org code, but you can not use WordPress.com in nearly as many ways as the WordPress.org software. WordPress.com users can’t use plugins so how would you ever know if plugins, especially image gallery ones would work with this change?

Removing The Functionality:

If the change has broken your site or you don’t like WordPress being changed automatically to the correct spelling, you can use the following plugin that will remove the filter. I’ve installed this plugin on WPTavern.com as a means of supporting its removal.

Where I Stand:

I’ve had nothing break, that I know of due to the forced spelling change. In fact, I’ve found it very convenient but after giving the principles of the matter more thought and looking at the bigger picture, I don’t think WordPress should be forcing anything upon its users, especially when it comes to content. If people want to misspell something, let them do that. Don’t hold their hand and change their content for them without recourse. I would have used this opportunity to promote the After The Deadline plugin/service as it correctly labels the misspelling of WordPress. I also would have used PollDaddy to generate a poll to get a feel for what others thought about the idea and possible repercussions on the proposed implementation.

While a handful of developers have chimed in with their support of reverting the patch from the core of WordPress, Matt’s responses within the WP-Hackers mailing list thread regarding the issue give a sense of the change not going anywhere and sticking to his guns although he admits that if people voted with their feet or via a plugin to disable/remove the filter, he would reconsider:

As I said before, you are in /complete control/ of your site. It’s a single line to remove a filter. If you don’t like the filter, vote with your feet or with a plugin. If the function cause a non-trivial number of people to avoid 3.0, leave WP, or install a plugin to deactivate I would seriously reconsider it. In the absence of that, there are a 1,001 better places to focus my attention with regards to WordPress.

The patch has good intentions but this addition to WordPress is one more example of something that needed a wider scope of feedback before being implemented into the core. I’d like to see the auto correcting behaviour removed until it’s decided that according to the community, they have no problem with it. In fact, I bet if a poll was conducted via the WordPress Dev blog or even Matt’s blog explaining the patch, its intentions, and possible pitfalls, the response would have been more positive than negative and if it were voted to be included or most people didn’t care, then a bunch of energy wouldn’t have been spent fighting against it.

Speaking of communication, it may also be worth noting that Matt’s patch did not have a ticket attached to it to provide discussion from other developers before it was committed. It was a straight patch. If I’m wrong on this point, please provide a link in the comments to the ticket before the patch was committed.

P.S. For a good laugh, check out WPCamelcase.com.

31 Comments


  1. Hi,
    thanks for sharing.. I already knew this when I recently wrote an article about WordPress..
    but what I wanted to ask is, how did you write WordPress with a small ‘p’ in your post ? :D

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  2. Thanks for the wpcamelcase.com shoutout. I think it’s better for people to learn to spell WordPress properly than the software they use holding their hand to do it for them.

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  3. Jeffro, we’ve got to at least get you to spell “misspell” correctly when writing about the misspelling of a word.

    “Miss Spell” and “Miss Spelling” sound like names. Sounds like you’re writing about an old high school English teacher. ;)

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  4. I’d have to say that while I completely understand why they did it, I disagree with it. It’s the type of feature that is fun to joke about in a dev chat, but not something you actually want to implement when you have millions of users.

    Implementing it on WordPress.com is different as it is a closed hosted environment.

    Content should be free right? Isn’t the mission of the open source WordPress project to democratize publishing? I guess it’s all about democratizing publishing as long as you spell things the way they tell you to.

    I’m not going to lose sleep over it like some people on the hacker mailing list. But I don’t agree with it.

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  5. And I thought the miss spell misspelling was a subtle attempt at humor (and got a mild chuckle out of it).

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  6. I have to say I don’t really care; but if it affected me like the guy with the image in the bug report, I’d be pissed. As a developer, I’m debugging all the time, and it’s the little mistakes that take so long to figure out. If the image situation happened to me, I know for a fact it would take me forever to find, and I probably would have been LIVID when I found it.

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  7. With this patch, Matt is inherently indicating that, with respect to the capitalization of “WordPress”, end users of WordPress do not, in fact, have the right to use the application according to their own purposes as end users. Users can no longer (intentionally or unintentionally) mis-capitalize “WordPress”, without extending core to remove the filter.

    I find this inherent indication fascinating, given the fanatical, dogmatic pursuit of software freedom in almost all of Matt’s (and Automattic’s, and the WordPress project’s) words and actions.

    This statement is part of GNU’s definition of “free software”:

    “The freedom to run the program means the freedom for any kind of person or
    organization to use it on any kind of computer system, for any kind of overall
    job and purpose, without being required to communicate about it with the
    developer or any other specific entity. In this freedom, it is the user’s
    purpose that matters, not the developer’s purpose; you as a user are free to
    run the program for your purposes, and if you distribute it to someone else,
    she is then free to run it for her purposes, but you are not entitled to
    impose your purposes on her.”

    Reiterating:

    “it is the user’s purpose that matters, not the developer’s purpose”

    According to the definition and philosophy of free software, Matt and his pedantic desire for “WordPress” not to be mis-capitalized can go pound sand. His desire is completely and entirely irrelevant to the end users’ purposes for WordPress.

    This function provides absolutely no benefit to the user community of WordPress. It is the epitome of pedantry. If I’m wrong – if such a burning need and desire for such a filter exists within the community – then move the entire function into a plugin, add it to the repository, and see how popular it becomes.

    It is not so much the bad decision to add the function to core that bothers me, per se; bad decisions are correctable. Rather, what concerns me is the attitude and response of the core development team (primarily, Matt himself) to the criticism from the community for making the decision:

    The function inherently makes editorial changes to user content without user knowledge or consent? Who cares. WordPress must be capitalized correctly, at all costs!
    The function breaks user content? Who cares. It works on wordpress.com. The damage has been done, and fixed. Everything else is just an edge case.
    The function adds unnecessary overhead to core? Who cares. It separates WordPress from all of the other soulless (and, presumably, less pedantic) CMS alternatives.
    The function is no more useful than many other functions and patches that have been rejected from core due to their trivial nature and niche use? Who cares. Matt wrote it.
    The function is terribly unpopular, as evidenced by the wp-hackers mail list, the wordpress.org support forums, and the overwhelming “+1 revert” comments on the Trac bug report related to the function? Who cares. Matt discussed it with the core devs before he committed it. It’s not really a “vast majority” who are opposed; just a “vocal” minority. And if you don’t like it, vote with your feet, or write a plugin to remove the filter.

    None of the above are responses that give me much confidence in the core development team’s respect of, concern for, or commitment to the WordPress user community.

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  8. @Chip Bennett – The vast majority of the user community doesn’t even know it happens. But I’m guessing users such as school newspapers, magazines, newspapers, etc. wouldn’t be too thrilled with the idea that their CMS would dictate how their editorial content is displayed.

    I completely get that it’s just one word and it doesn’t change anything else. But I think what people have an issue with is the idea of the CMS changing ANY of their editorial content. It’s more of a principal thing than anything else.

    The fact is plenty of developers are also upset over the change. Developers who care enough about WordPress development to subscribe to and follow the wp-hackers list. The diehards. It is those developers that are also having their concerns brushed aside. Are they a vocal minority? Sure. But brushing their concerns aside and waiting for it to all blow over just alienates them. What happens when you begin alienating the developers that contribute to the project? Eventually they will quit contributing to the project.

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  9. If WordPress had always magically corrected wordpress into WordPress, would we be having this sort of argument, or would it be something we always accepted?

    Mind you, I think it’s a really stupid change. I get why they did it, I don’t mind that it was done, but I mind the hassles it causes when you legitimately want to say wordPress or WordPress or what not. Yes, I can turn it off via a filter, but much like Hello Dolly, and adding links to plugins to your front end, this should be opt in.

    Make a damn checkbox in the Writing section and say ‘Have WordPress autocorrect the spelling of WordPress?’ with a default of ‘no.’

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  10. By the way: if this change is so critical (and popular), why does Ozh’ “Correctly Spell WordPress” plugin only have 334 downloads in the almost three years that it’s been in the repository?

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  11. But now you can’t write blog posts demonstrating the right and wrong way to spell WoRdPrEsS…

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  12. If it was discussed as aggressively as it is being discussed now prior to the patch being introduced it probably never would have made it into core. Now that it is in core, it will be much harder to remove. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. ”
    – John Kenneth Galbraith

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  13. I don’t get why they did it and I think it comes down to an attitude problem within the developer group. There are bunch of stuff that basically comes down to principles of you should not do that.

    Can you ever think Microsoft would force correct Microsoft in Word for example?
    Even Apple doesn’t force correct. That has to mean something since Apple is the new Microsoft.

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  14. @Andreas Nurbo – Apple is not the “new Microsoft.” Microsoft is still Microsoft. They just aren’t over-hyped by the press anymore.

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  15. What if everyone just starts spelling it in 1337 i.e.: \/\/0r[)PR3S$ Is there a plugin for that?

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  16. @Andreas Nurbo – Microsoft grammar check does autocorrect ‘MicroSoft’ actually. You can undo and keep the bad spelling, but it does check in the latest version.

    And again, that’s kind of the thing. Microsoft and iApple DO check. But they let you misspell if you want to.

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  17. @Ipstenu – And that is at least one crux of the matter, Choice. In this instance, if you are running WordPress 3.0, and you type WordPress, the software corrects it for you with NO choice. To get that choice back for that particular word, you are told to go into the code and remove the filter or install a plugin. All of this is really unnecessary, everything else thrown aside.

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  18. @redwall_hp – Apple is new improved Microsoft. Just as evil but with a good looking package. Well Google is evil also without package just hype. “We didn’t know we were collecting data from unprotected wireless connections”(sic)

    @Ipstenu – I wrote force correct. Still it should have been in the spell checker. Now its more like Word changing it when you print the document.

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  19. This filter seems kind of dictatorship-ish. I mean, WordPress thinks that the only word that users should be forced to spell correctly is the word WordPress. Everything else can slide. I don’t like that they’re messing with my control over my content, even if it’s only over one letter in one word.

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  20. @Andreas Nurbo – Aaaah! See I read ‘force correct’ as ‘When I type in MicroSoft, Word magically flips it to Microsoft via auto-correct, and I have to pay attention and remember to switch it back.’ In my mind? That is forcing a correction. You meant ‘It changes it and won’t let me change it back.’ Which … makes more sense now :)

    @Raphael Mudge – See, now AtD would have been the perfect application of this change!

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  21. I think it’s been the general air of contempt around this commit that has got to me. It’s caused real users to experience issues (specifically those who keep images in a directory called WordPress) and – most of them being non-technical and not following trac etc. – they’d have no clue why it’s happening.

    If this had just been mentioned beforehand, all the grief could have been avoided, instead they’ve got a PR gaff and a whirlwind backlash.

    Unfortunately, the nature of some of the backlash, concentrating on tangent points and crying “revert, revert”, seems to have meant that the proposed patches (which fix the bug if nothing else) are even less likely to be commited.

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  22. I think Andy Ihnatko’s take (not on this issue, but on civility on the Internet[s]) is particularly germane:

    http://ihnatko.com/2010/07/07/monitoring-the-ongoing-abrading-of-common-courtesy-update-822/

    To wit:

    You, personally, aren’t the most important person in the universe. You are the only important person in the universe.

    There can be no excuse for anybody failing to adhere to your privately-held and poorly-defined expectations.

    Never consider what life is like for anybody else. Filter everything that everybody else does through your own experiences and judge it against your random, ill-defined expectations of human behavior.

    Remember: as the recipient of the right eye of Odin, you have all knowledge of all things, instinctively; trying to see something from another perspective is just a waste of your valuable time and patience.

    If one of these idiots attempts to (oh for ****’s sake) defend their actions, you must react with either indifferent disdain or (better yet) outright hostility. Their so-called “explanation” can only be an attempt to bulls**t you. You’re too smart to let them trick you into double-guessing the validity of your immediate reaction to their choices; take immediate and violent offense that they even suggest that you’re not on to them.

    By steering the discussion away from the topic at hand, and onto the subject of how much they offended you and how they must now make amends, you’re putting the focus right back where it belongs. See point one.

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  23. The function makes sense, but M&M could have taken an all around better approach.

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  24. Matt Mullwegg must have copy editor’s blood like me. OK, maybe it wasn’t the smartest move, but they do give millions of users a pretty powerful tool for free. So I think we can let this slide (or just remove it).

    I mean, it’s not like they shipped an expensive product to millions of loyal customers that’s pretty but sometimes works and other times doesn’t, like–ahem–Apple. Cue the haters…

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  25. I about lost it just now. I wasn’t expecting that at 1am after a few BarleyPops!

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  26. Yeah — it’s silly. But the fact that it’s SO silly and it won’t be removed is what makes it really damn funny. Wrote a little blurb and produced a little cartoon about for fun… http://bit.ly/cGaFeJ – Just a fun excuse to play with STATE while poking some fun at the situation.

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  27. I guess I should aPologize to Matt for all the tyPos I’ve made.

    Sorry, Matt. My bad. :D

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