Best Grammar Checker

Well today I decided it’d be fun to do a little honing of my typing skills, which in turn sent me wildly out of control a path I could not have foreseen.

Today it went something like this.

www.typeracer.com -> a book -> www.geraldmweinberg.com -> weinbergonwriting.blogspot.com -> www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-dean-wesley-smith -> quest to disable all automatic grammar checking -> quest to find the best grammar checker.

The first quest was easy.  In Firefox its in preferences->advanced->check my spelling as I type.  Then you can just right-click to active the spell checking.  Why would you want to do this? Well Dean Wesley Smith has it off because it is simply, “Too disruptive on the creative flow.”, and he seems to know something about writing efficiently.

It boils down to these three steps when writing.

  1. Creative writing.  Let the information flow!
  2. Spell Checker, Grammar Checker, Proofread.  Yes by hand. I’ll get more into to that later.
  3. Have someone else read your work.  (If its important.  I’m gonna skip this step for this blog post).

Now, I simply didn’t stop here, I had my second quest, to find the best grammar checker.  Firefox only has a built-in spelling checker, while Safari has a built-in grammar and spelling checker.  Certainly there had to be a plug-in!

Despite the mixed reviews I ended up going with After the Deadline out of the two grammar checkers available because it seemed like it was their specialty and the idea is great.  When it finds a grammatical error it doesn’t just fix it, it tells you why it did so and teaches you little something.  AWESOME.  Except it doesn’t work… at least not very well.  In fact, I’m attempting to use it as I write and it simply isn’t working.  So I won’t be able to show you their awesome idea, but I think you get it.  They do also offer a WordPress plugin, which I’ll try some other time.

Anyways, I also looked at several other grammar checkers testing them with a tough sentence I came up with, only to find none of them fixed it how I would fix it.  Some did better than others.

The sentence: Tis is the stuff I luv abut yous I like you. I really would, like this, too works good.

  • Built-in browser (Safaria, Firefox).  Ok…
  • Microsoft Word.  Pretty good.
  • But the winner is!  WhiteSmoke.  This one did very well.

However, after looking at their video I noticed something not quite right.  She sent her manuscript to a big NY publishing house, but it rejected it. I felt it should be: She sent her manuscript to a big NY publishing house, but they rejected it. Now, it wasn’t enough that I felt it should be they, I had to prove it to myself.  At first I was in a dilemma, I could only find references that said to use singular pronouns to refer to singular nouns…  until this!

If we refer to the individuals that compose that unit, we use a plural pronoun.
My family is very warm and supporting. I love them all.

Maybe, just maybe, Firefox only has spell checking for a reason.  That reason is English is a natural language and programming is a formal language.  Now, I’m not entirely sure where natural languages fall in the Chomsky Hierarchy, but it is my intuition since they are context-sensitive, they probably belong to the context-sensitive level.  I say this despite a paper arguing it is regular… (which I have not read, but seems like a good starting place for research, for you academics.)

The central claim of the paper is that NL stringsets are regular. Three independent arguments are oered in favor of this position: one based on parsimony considerations, one employing the McCullogh-Pitts (1943) model of neurons, and a purely linguistic one. It is possible to derive explicit upper bounds for the number of (live) states in NL acceptors: the results show that nite state NL parsers can be implemented on presentday computers. The position of NL stringsets within the regular family is also investigated: it is proved that NLs are counter-free, but not locally testable. 0 Introduction The question whether the grammatical sentences of natural languages form regular (Type 3), context free (Type 2), context sensitive (Type 1), or recursively enumerable (Type 0) sets has been subject to much discussion ever since it was posed by Chomsky in his seminal 1956 paper. However, there seems to be little agreement among the linguists concerned with the `geographic’ position of natural…

Either way it is difficult.  As an aside this is the same reason we have numerous programmers creating custom web crawlers to scrape data from HTML, normally using regex, and then running into trouble.  Because of this new programmers ask common questions that drive experienced developers crazy!  There are BETTER WAYS.

So, finally, after all this work I was confronted with the truth – brush up on grammar because the tools are not capable of everything, yet.  The best grammar checker is a PERSON.

Just in case your thinking, “We don’t need to know how to write well to communicate”, think again:

In my experience, speech is one of the least effective, inefficient forms of communicating with other human beings. By that, I mean… – Jeff Atwood

I do agree with the inefficient part.  Who here likes to say the same thing over and over on a weekly basis?  Who here forgets things on a weekly basis?  Good writing alleviates both of these problems to a degree.  However, I will say that face to face verbal communication can be very effective when used appropriately.

Is Writing More Important Than Programming

View more presentations from legendsland.
Not to mention this whole tangent of mine got started by a great software enthusiast, who is also a great writer whose book was featured on typeracer.