"Grammar" checking programs

Subject: "Grammar" checking programs
From: John Gear <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 18 May 1995 01:12:00 PDT

Someone asked what can these grammar checking programs provide that a good
writer/editor cannot?

I guess my answer would be "nothing" of course. They can't provide squat.
But they can *do* some things for you that you might want done by a machine
rather than by hand.
Especially the one built right into WordPerfect (it's either Grammatik or
RightWriter -- I forget which).

The nicest aspect is that you can not only get a rough feel for the
difficulty of your entire document but you can also check individual chunks
to see if you've maintained a roughly consistent style throughout. In long
documents done over a long period of time this can be very helpful.

I agree completely that the solutions that grammar checkers provide are
asinine as often as not--but also have found the difficulty index feature to
be very helpful.

(PS: I think a lot of people's resistance to these could have been avoided
if the developers of these algorithms had *resisted* the tempation to
produce answers that supposedly correlate to years of education. It was
that obvious choice for a metric but it was bound to set up a "human vs.
machine" issue that really is not there. Grammar checkers are simply crude
AI programs processing strings of digits in response to programmed rules.
If they produced a number that was *clearly* different from "grade levels" I
think this would be easier to remember. It's an interesting problem for
technical communicators--how to avoid getting emotional responses to a term
you introduce without realizing that it will threaten some users.)
John Gear (catalyst -at- pacifier -dot- com)

The Bill of Rights--The Original Contract with America
Accept no substitutes. Beware of imitations. Insist on the genuine articles.

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