[Paleopsych] CHE: Microsoft Word Grammar Checker Are No Good, Scholar Conclude
checker at panix.com
Wed Apr 13 19:50:05 UTC 2005
Microsoft Word Grammar Checker Are No Good, Scholar Conclude
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.4.15
By BROCK READ
If you've ever used Microsoft Word, chances are you've seen that
jagged green line appear beneath something you've written -- scolding
you for drafting a fragmented sentence, maybe, or for slipping into
the passive voice. That's Microsoft's grammar-checking technology at
But how much good does the grammar checker actually do? Precious
little, according to Sandeep Krishnamurthy, an associate professor of
marketing and e-commerce at the University of Washington. After
experimenting with the tool, Mr. Krishnamurthy concluded that it
cannot identify many basic grammatical faux pas -- like errors in
capitalization, punctuation, and verb tense.
Now he has dedicated himself to chronicling the grammar checker's
blind spots, and to persuading Microsoft to improve the tool.
On his Web site (http://faculty.washington.edu/sandeep/check), Mr.
Krishnamurthy has posted evidence that he considers damning: a series
of examples of poor grammar the software considers passable. One
reads: "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."
Microsoft officials did not respond to calls for comment. But in a
statement released in response to Mr. Krishnamurthy's Web site, the
company argued that its grammar checker is a writing aid, not a
catchall. "The Word grammar checker is designed to catch the kinds of
errors that ordinary users make in normal writing situations," the
For above-average writers, the software might pick up a grammatical
misstep or two, according to Mr. Krishnamurthy, but for subpar
writers, the tool is useless.
Mr. Krishnamurthy says many of his students are not native English
speakers and often struggle with the written word.
The grammar checker, he argues, impedes their efforts to improve their
writing -- by telling them that misconjugated verbs and poorly
structured sentences are perfectly fine.
The tool is so pernicious, he says, that Microsoft should either
improve it or ditch it. Mr. Krishnamurthy recommends that the software
more easily let users choose whether they want only basic guidance or
significant editing help. The current software allows users to pick
which types of grammatical errors they want identified, but Mr.
Krishnamurthy says that system is too complicated for many beginning
Some technical experts say that creating a better grammar checker
would be a tall order, but Mr. Krishnamurthy says the program just
needs to do a better job of telling writers how to use it. "I've heard
some techies say, You're holding us to too high a standard," he says,
"but I don't completely buy that."
Editor's note: The headline on this article cleared Microsoft's
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