About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways.

Samuel McChord Crothers



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 1/15/2018

Totals
Posts - 2475
Comments - 2570
Hits - 2,015,535

Averages
Entries/day - 0.47
Comments/entry - 1.04
Hits/day - 379

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 5:23 AM Pacific


  08:45 AM

There was an article in the Seattle P-I on Monday about the limitations of the grammar checker in Microsoft Word. Here's a cite:
[Some whiner] has crafted and posted for public download several documents containing awful grammar. Depending on the version and settings, the Word grammar checker sometimes detects a few of the problems. But it overlooks the majority of them -- skipping misplaced apostrophes, singular-plural inconsistencies, missing articles, sentence fragments, improper capitalization and other problems.

An excerpt from one of his documents: "Marketing are bad for brand big and small. You Know What I am Saying? It is no wondering that advertisings are bad for company in America, Chicago and Germany. ... McDonald's and Coca Cola are good brand. ... Gates do good marketing job in Microsoft."

With examples like that passing through unflagged, Krishnamurthy questions whether Microsoft should even offer the grammar-checking feature in its existing state.
Devising computer algorithms to check grammar is what's termed a "hard problem." The article notes that Corel's grammar checker is better than the one in Word, and they quote various people as saying that the Word grammar checker could be better. Quite likely true.

But I'll repeat my own view, the basis of which I think is neatly captured by this quote from the article:
[L]ast year, one student turned in a badly written report.

"The least you could have done is run spell-check and grammar-check," Krishnamurthy said.

"But I did!" the student said.
My view being that:
  • Grammar checkers are an aid, not a fix.
  • No one should ever let a machine override human judgement in matters of language.
  • Any kid who turns in a paper with obvious grammar errors and then blames the software should be put into remedial writing class. (And anyone who can't write grammatical sentences at the college level shouldn't be at the college level anyway ...)

P-I article via Anu Garg's AWADMail.

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