19 Friday Oct 2018
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Why you are a better proofreader than so-called grammar checkers
Grammar checkers promise more than they deliver
If you believe the advertising claims of commercial grammar checkers – with their so-called ‘intelligent software’ – you have fallen for marketing blurb. Grammar checkers can tidy up some sloppy typing, but they are not a cure-all of writing sins.
For this article, we conducted an independent test with two commercially available grammar checkers’ trial editions: Ginger and Grammarly. We’ve also used Microsoft Word’s built-in (free) grammar checker as a benchmark.
To make sure the test was independent, we used the 30 example sentences with common grammar and English usage faults listed on the site: Common Mistakes that Kill your Writing Credibility. See: https://authority.pub/common-grammar-mistakes/
The results (see below) were startling. Here is the report card.
Program: Errors Detected Percentage Detected
Grammarly ($23 a month) 2 out of 30 6.6%
Ginger ($30 a month) 6 out of 30 20%
Microsoft Word (free) 10 out of 30 33.3%
Humans 23 out of 30 76.6%
The commercial grammar checkers performed miserably – missing over 80 percent of the errors and occasionally giving the wrong advice. Running the built-in grammar checker in Word is a better proofreading tool.
But for most people, the easiest and most effective way to good grammar is to read through their document – humans consistently do better than the grammar checkers. To test this, we gave the same 30 sentences to people attending a business writing course. The average score was 23 out of 30 and the lowest score was 18.
Grammar checkers work on your insecurity. And they encourage you to take out a monthly subscription rather than a one-off license fee. Grammar checkers want you to take out a monthly subscription for a proofreading tool that is of dubious value – emptying your pockets and filling their coffers.
Some proofreading programs however do offer value for money.
My favorite is StyleWriter (for the PC) from Editor Software. StyleWriter teaches you how professional editors cut and polish writing. It teaches you to write the clear English style of plain English. And of course, a clear style will have fewer grammatical mistakes. There’s a free trial and it costs a one-time license fee of $90 to $190 (depending on the edition that suits you).