[Paleopsych] CHE: Microsoft Word Grammar Checker Are No Good, Scholar Conclude

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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


    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 ([3]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
    statement said.

    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
    grammar checker.

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