1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    The validity of built in grammar checking tools....

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Alesia, Apr 2, 2013.

    Has anyone else had experience with websites that contain grammar flags or online grammar checking software? I've been noticing on one site I frequent, they have a proof read button and it always seems to flag seemingly correct grammar. For example ANY usage of past tense ("John went to the store on Thursday") it will flag as passive voice. Also any word beyond a basic term is flagged as a complex expression I/E it will suggest changing the word establish to set-up. And I won't even get started on the "PC filter", as I like to call it, that flags words such as "tribal" under "racial bias". It seems to me these types of software could serve to really hurt people's writing ability if they take them at complete face value. Thoughts?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The writer definitely needs to use his/her head when a sentence is flagged as ungrammatical/incorrect. Grammar software sometimes miss errors, so writers need to take that into consideration as well. I say this based on my experience with MS Word. I don't have any experience with online grammar checking software (I didn't know there was any).
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The automated analysis of grammar is beyond the state of the art of software, and will be until computers comprehend not only the rules of grammar, but also the actual meaning of the writing to be analyzed. This is inherent to natural languages, particularly English, which fall under the mathematical category of context-sensitive grammars.

    A grammar checker can help you locate questionable grammar, to be thenevaluated by a human being who understands grammar. A grammar checker should never be considered authoritative.
     
  4. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    And when THAT happens, we might be soon facing a robot-apocalypse. So let's learn grammar for ourselves and be thankful for ineffective algorithms.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    These kinds of spell and grammar checks are far from foolproof, as you say, but they can be useful tools--for warning about repeated words or very long sentences, for instance. It's terrible writing a historical romance with one on, as "maid", gentleman", and a host of other un-PC words crop up so often. Also, passive rather than active voice is sometimes better in academic writing where the focus is on the result, not the agent, so it is not a help to have "passive voice" flagged all the time. As you say, often the objected-to structure isn't passive in any case.
    Computers will never think like humans. Ha!
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Humans are more adaptable. It is far more likely humans will learn to think like computers. Come to think of it, I'm paid to do exactly that part of each work day.
     
  7. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    I absolutely cannot write on computers like that. Green squiggly line, go fuck yourself, it's called style. It breaks my concentration and IT'S NOT ALWAYS RIGHT AND YET THERE'S NO "LEARN" OPTION. That's why I use Pages.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can turn off grammar checking, you know.
     
  9. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    MS Word's grammar checker has helped me notice things, but I trust my brain more.
     
  10. Peregrinus
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    Peregrinus Member

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    Exactly. Its an incredibly useful guide. The problem comes when your a little OCD and cant stand the green underlines :p
     
  11. Quille
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    Quille Senior Member

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    I turned off my Word grammar check a long time ago. I got tired of it nagging at me. I run it manually. I write science fiction and fantasy, lots of made up words and names, so set a 'writing' dictionary' as the default to get rid of the red squiggly lines as well.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I check out the squigglies to see whether I slipped or the grammar checker did. I know my typing is utter crap, but I am confident enough in my knowledge of grammar not to be intimidated by a piece of software. It's a tool. If it points out something I overlooked, it was worth spending time on a bunch of squigglies that guessed poorly.
     
  13. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can add words to your MS Word dictionary - right click and add, you probably know this but just in case...
     
  14. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I love the grammar and spell check - but I treat them like advice that I can take or leave.

    As far as passive voice goes, pay attention to it, because there is usually a way to change it to an active voice that sounds better (though obviously, not always). My biggest frustration with Word is the confusion between it's and its. It seems to almost never mark them correctly.
     

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