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With the growing availability of online information systems, a need for user interfaces that are flexible and easy to use has arisen. For such type of systems, an interface that allows the formulation of approximate queries can be of great utility since these allow the user to quickly explore the database contents even when he is unaware of the exact values of the database instances. Our work focuses on this problem, presenting a new model for ranking approximate answers and a new algorithm to compute the semantic similarity between attribute values, based on information retrieval techniques. To demonstrate the utility and usefulness of the approach, we perform a series of usability tests. The results suggest that our approach allows the retrieval of more relevant answers with less effort by the user.