Just a Theory

By David E. Wheeler

Posts about Perl Best Practices

Efficient Closest Word Algorithm

“Perl Best Practices” cover

I’ve been reading Perl Best Practices and have been making use of List::Util and List::MoreUtils as a result. I’m amazed that I never knew about these modules before. I mean, I kinda knew there were there, but hadn’t paid much attention before or bothered to find out how useful they are!

Anyway, a problem I’m currently working on is finding a word in a list of words that’s the closest match to another word. Text::Levenshtein appears to be a good method to determine relative closeness, but try as I might, I couldn’t make it work using first or min or apply or any of the utility list methods. I finally settled on this subroutine:

use Text::LevenshteinXS qw(distance);
sub _find_closest_word {
    my ($word, $closest) = (shift, shift);
    my $score = distance($word, $closest);
    for my $try_word (@_) {
        my $new_score = distance($word, $try_word);
        ($closest, $score) = ($try_word, $new_score)
            if $new_score < $score;
    return $closest;

Am I missing something, or is this really the most obvious and efficient way to do it?

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