Moon

Typos in your Documentation?

2011 / 03 / 04 — documentation, spellcheck, typos, yard

More likely than you think.

Having good documentation (internal and external) can make or break bigger projects. Good documentation helps skilled users/developers get up to speed with your project. However, bad documentation will drive potential users away. Typos are probably the most embarrassing thing to find in documentation.

One day I was fixing a trivial bug in my code for a new-user, and glanced over the documentation. Low and behold I spot a typo right above the broken method. In this moment of embarrassment (in front of the new-user), I said enough is enough, no more typos!

Since I use YARD for all of my projects, I decided to write a YARD plugin which would scan all of my documentation text using the Hunspell spellchecking library (via ffi-hunspell). A couple days later, yard-spellcheck was printing typos with file-names, line-numbers and ANSI highlighting.

As I suspected, I was able to find and fix a handful of typos in my own libraries, thanks to yard-spellcheck. Next, I started scanning larger projects with YARD documentation. I found a couple typos in DataMapper and even YARD itself (all are fixed now).

The lesson of this short story is that typos are lurking everywhere; too numerous and well hidden for human eyes to catch them all. Luckily, we now have an automated-tool in the fight against typos. The Ruby Community is notably obsessed with testing and quality of software, we should feel the same way about our documentation.

$ gem install yard-spellcheck
$ cd my_project/
$ yard-spellcheck

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