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Write It Right: Why Two Eyes Are Better Than a Grammar Checker

Grammar police

Grammar police (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

Since this post will be poking fun at Spam grammar, it could also be known as Spammer Grammar #2. If you missed my original fun post on Spammer Grammar, feel free to click over and read before continuing.

Today, I would like to offer an object lesson on why grammar-checking software should never take the place of a pair of human eyes. Recently, a tweet on twitter recommended I try a spiffy grammar program which shall remain nameless. Now, I am reasonably certain the folks behind this software mean well and want to make the world a better place by giving us cleaner and clearer prose to read. Unfortunately, there’s a flaw in their plan, and I am about to introduce it. Meet Exhibit A (and I solemnly swear I am not making this up):

Howdy, just realize your blog via Google, and discovered that it’s genuinely informative. I will be gonna watch out for brussels. We are grateful in the event you continue this in future. Many other people will oftimes be benefited from the writing. Many thanks!

Exhibit A comes directly from my spam file. It’s a prime example of something one might plug into a grammar checker to find problems, especially if, say, one blogs about writing and one has an itch to see if grammar checkers can be made to go boom in an entertaining way. In other words, if one is… me. So that is precisely what I did. Now, before we go any further, please reread the spam passage known as Exhibit A and let’s break it down as a pair of human eyes would view it.

Howdy 

Definitely a friendly start. Not my personal preference, but I can find no fault with it.

just realize your blog via Google, and discovered that it’s genuinely informative.

Ookay. Here’s where we start to go astray. “Just realize your blog via Google” sounds like a Nike-ish command (Just DO it!).  Even if I add “I” to the beginning of that sentence, there’s no clear meaning.  The verb tense is off, and the verb itself makes no sense in the context of the sentence. While I’m glad my blog isn’t falsely informative, I’m too busy trying to realize my blog via Google to notice.

I will be gonna watch out for brussels.

Take sentence. Add a random word like, “brussels.” Apply word-whacker. Post results. Yes, indeedy, we’ve got a case of word-whackery in the first degree. I have no idea what the brussels are, or what they are likely to do, but now that you mention it, those brussels sound like something to keep an eye on. I just won’t be GONNA do it, because my internal editor has threatened to print out this mangled sentence and beat me to death with it if I make her read it one more time.

We are grateful in the event you continue this in future.

Oh dear. At the start of the message, I was greeted by a single spammer. Now they have multiplied. I’m reassured for the moment that they are grateful. But in the event I master time travel and continue this in the past, I hope they don’t gang up on me.

Many other people will oftimes be benefited from the writing.

I am genuinely worried about these many other people who will be benefited. I suspect the spammer meant “Many people will benefit from your writing.” but one can never be certain. As it is, those many-benefited people are going on my beware list, right beneath those suspicious brussels.

Many thanks!

Again, very friendly tone. So far, the spammer has nailed openings and closings. It’s the middle part that’s muddled. But could it be sorted out by a grammar checker?

I’ll admit, I knew there were some problems in this spam message that I had no right to expect the software to handle, like those tricky brussels. I expected it to make a couple of catches, maybe highlight a sentence or two that freaked it out. But honestly? I would not have been surprised if a warning siren sounded and the Blue Screen of Death appeared.

None of those things happened.

Instead, I clicked on the little “check grammar” button, and out of that entire passage, the software underlined one word: “oftimes” because it should have two T’s. All of those other awkward constructions, misused words, and yes, even the brussels I will be gonna watch out for in the future, PASSED WITHOUT NOTICE.

So, I ran it through a SECOND grammar software, just in case the first program was less than first-rate. SAME RESULTS. The only mistake caught was the spelling of “oftimes.”

And that, my friends, is why two eyes are better than grammar software.

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2 comments on “Write It Right: Why Two Eyes Are Better Than a Grammar Checker

  1. Great tips and funny too! Good combination.

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