Saturday, 23 February 2013

Gramarly (sic)

This has just popped up on my screen
Notice anything? Well, two things actually.
  • The typo in the header is not corrected. 
  • More significantly, the errors corrected aren't errors of grammar - which seems to me (in a product with a name that refers explicitly to grammar) to be a fairly gross oversight.
Suppose I had written 'They aunt errors of grammar,' would the gran'ma checker have noticed? Or - less pleasingly, but more to the point - what about '...enhance you're writing'?

About 18 months ago there was a discussion  about the unpopularity of the passive in the UsingEnglish forums, to which I made this contribution:
One reason for its unpopularity may be that whenever you use it in WinWord the Grammar checker whips out its green pen and says 'Passive voice. Suggest rewriting.' - perhaps they mean 'A rewrite is suggested'.

(This may have been fixed in the latest flavour of WinWord, but I doubt it. )
 A fellow moderator added:
I always suspected that grammar checkers went for that as an easy rule to turn into a computer routine, taking something from Gower's Plain Words and twisting it into a rule that has become semi-accepted.
And I added this afterthought:
Yes - I don't think WinWord started it - which would be an excessively paranoid belief! They just encoded a 'rule' as you said, without bothering to consider its limitations. But Word's grammar checker is a pretty ubiquitous disseminator of that limited understanding.
Generally users of grammar checkers find them a useful tool, but one that needs close attention and post-editing. In my life as a technical writer I sometimes edited other people's work and found errors that had been suggested by Word and that they had unthinkingly accepted. Only last week I saw the phrase 'the choir needs more higher voices [a greater number of people with higher voices]....' - and Firefox's grammar checker marked the 'mistake'.

Grammar checkers are improving. One that is quite useful (but not of course infallible) was announced last month in the UsingEnglish forums:
I have put together an online grammar checker, "GrammarTool". During graduate school my friends would often have me read their drafts as I was one of the few native English speakers around. Eventually I had the idea of writing software to do some automatic basic checks.

Eventually this personal project morphed into a website. The good news: the website is free (and I'll keep it that way unless traffic really picks up and I need to pay for faster hardware), it doesn't have ads; the interface is relatively simple. I am eager to introduce features -- my own skill and time allowing.

The bad news -- like any automatic grammar checker -- my tool is still far worse than having a real live person read your writing
If the poster's web-site is up to it, I'll post a link in an update on this page.

Update 2013.02.24:17.00: Here it is: GrammarTool. What I like about it is that the user's in charge and there isn't a complicated user-interface. There is a Feedback button, which you can use both for feedback and for suggested new features.

Update 2013.02.25:17.00: By chance I just noticed that the moderator I mentioned earlier on ('Tdol')  has in fact written a blog post that deals specifically with Grammarly – which was the starting point for this post. It was written more than a year [A further update!] ago, though I imagine the principles are still the same.

Update: 2013.10.02.15:55
Header updated:

 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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