BY JULIO OJEDA-ZAPATA
Karl Ebert's Web site is all about numbers, but the Minneapolis entrepreneur recently fretted about its words.
Ebert, of KJE Computer Solutions at www.dinkytown.net, sells Web-based financial calculators that his clients place on their sites. He isn't a spelling whiz, though, and worried that mistakes on his home page might mar his credibility.
"I wanted a quick and efficient way to proof all of the (site's) pages" for spelling glitches, he said.
So he did a Google search and found TextTrust.com, a Toronto-based company that made his word woes go away. TextTrust.com scanned more than 260 of the site's public pages and found several dozen spelling mistakes of "varying importance."
Web misspelling is an Internet pandemic, TextTrust.com says. Its test scans of top sites routinely dredge up all sorts of spelling errors. In Minnesota, the state Transportation Department recently had "transporation" while the Health Department used "disese."
The Minnesota Orchestra called itself an "orchesta," the Minnesota State Fair referred to a "voluteer," and the Minnesota Twins site struck out with "picther" and "inninngs." And these are among the best spellers in a recent TextTrust.com survey of 25 top local sites.
Spelling errors can cripple a site's credibility, experts say. With commercial sites being gauged largely on visceral grounds, such errors send the wrong "psychic signals," said Michael Levine, author of the book "Broken Windows, Broken Business."
"They tell the emotional parts of people's brains that those in charge are not into excellence," Levine said.
TextTrust.com (www.texttrust. com) seeks to eradicate the misspelling plague by serving as a site checker for hire. That's all the 9-month-old company does, with yearly scanning fees starting at $50 and increased based on a client site's size.
Such a service is needed, the company believes, because people responsible for posting pages to sites often don't use the traditional spell-checking tools at their disposal. Those who do use the tools can get frustrated because of "false positives" on special terms that are spelled correctly, but flagged by the software as potentially erroneous.
"The quality of (the) dictionaries is poor," said TextTrust.com co-founder Daniel Rostenne. Users "are sick and tired of clicking, 'ignore, ignore, ignore.' "
The firm has developed specialized, customizable dictionaries for scouring sites. Scans of Ebert's KJE site, for instance, will skip such financial terms as "401(k)," "Roth IRA" and "NUA" (short for "net unrealized appreciation").
What's more, TextTrust's human editors go over all scans for errors — which still can creep in, Rostenne acknowledges — before site reports are submitted to clients.
TextTrust.com claims about 200 individual customers, including the Minnesota Transportation Department.
The Carolinas-based law firm of Nexsen Pruet Adams Kleemeier uses TextTrust.com to check a site containing details on its 180 lawyers, 15 practice groups and more. Spokesman Christopher Rees is delighted that "someone out there has your back with little things like typos that wiggle in under your fingernails."
At Marymount Manhattan College in New York, TextTrust.com scanning pleases image-conscious administrators. "It certainly makes my department heads happy," said John Walter, director of systems applications. The price is right, he added. The college pays about $150 a year for a site with about 700 pages.
The Rhode Island-based eMarketing Association usually refrains from recommending service vendors — but the trade group makes an exception with TextTrust.com, which it hired to scan its site consisting of about 500 pages.
"A spelling error just makes you look bad," so TextTrust.com is a vital ally, said association President Robert Fleming. "We're very impressed with them, and we're not impressed with much."
Julio Ojeda-Zapata can be reached at 651-228-5467 or email@example.com.