November 23, 2010
Grammar checker FTW
You can hardly swing a dead linguist without getting opinions -- negative ones, of course -- about the quality of advice offered by spelling and grammar checking in Microsoft Word. Here's a sample from Geoff Pullum:
But she is wise to the extraordinarily bad advice Word gives on spelling and grammar, and firmly resisted what could have been one of the worst cupertinos in the history of philosophy.The issue with linguists (and editors) and Microsoft Word is that they focus on what we in our business call "edge cases." Submit to Word a term that's been so misspelled that it's not clear what was intended, or submit a particularly tricky grammar issue to it, and it might respond with an incorrect suggestion. So obviously the tool is useless. (Or, um, "extraordinarily bad.") The fact that Word catches 98+ percent of the bad spellings and grammar issues that it encounters is never remarked on. It's not very interesting when a tool just does what it's supposed to do.
Me, I am highly dependent on these tools because in fact they do find all sorts of junk. (More spelling errors than grammar errors, but some of each.) And sure, it isn't always right, but that's why there's an editor. (Me.) Even so, it impressed me today. Here's something I wrote; for the highlighted word, do you know whether it's right?
When I get the nod from Bill, or from whoever he delegates the decision to, I’ll make the updates.
Word did. :-)
I will admit that it isn't always (as my wife likes to say) buttercups and roses. Here's a grammar-checker boo-boo from the Fail blog:
I verified this in Microsoft Word 2010. Left as an exercise to the reader, I guess, is to try to figure out what Word was thinking.