Friday, April 15, 2005

How to Write Real Good

Today's Chronicle has an amusing article on the shortcomings of grammar-checking in Microsoft products. Those enamored with technological crutches and mental crib-sheets should take a look, and then go back to their dictionaries. On the other hand, the grammar police are slowly losing the battle - just listen for the lack of adverbs next time you tune into the radio or watch the boob tube.

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 work.

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.

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