Grammar vs Spell Checkers – Everyday Applications


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Grammar vs Spelling

Grammar and spelling are two very different things. Grammar rules the way sentences are put together– Syntax. Spelling rules how words are put together in a sequence of letters.

Jim Hillier, my favorite down-under Australian buddy, and I have been talking about this subject for a couple of weeks now. Neither of us have been able to come up with a good application to solve both goals. I hope to have beaten this “daemon of the writers”.

Note: Jim Hillier can be found on Dave’s Computer Tips

Spell Checkers’ Limitations

The only thing a spell checker checks is if the word is spelled correctly. This is a limited way of doing things. Let’s say you use the word “cite” instead of “site”; or “fore” instead of “for”. The spell checker sees both instances as correct. They are, after all, correct spellings of those words. The problem is that the grammatical troubles still exist.

If I were to compose a sentence that looked like this: “This cite is a great place to go fore fantastic hot dogs.”,

you all know what I mean, but the spelling is all wrong. It should be: “This site is a great place to go for fantastic hot dogs.”


The problem here is that the spell checker checks spelling– not context. It didn’t notice that “fore” doesn’t have any business at all in that sentence.

Grammar Checkers Fix That Problem — Sort of

I’ve been on the look-out for a good (great) grammar checker for a long time now. After all, that’s what I do– write. And I’d like to do it right. So I started doing a concerted search for a good application to accomplish just that.

During my search I found After The Deadline. This can be installed in Chrome, Firefox, and WordPress if you happen to be a blogger and are using that tool. This is an actual test of the software as I write. How about that for a zero-day test?

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As you can see in the image, it didn’t like what I had typed in the above paragraphs. Its distaste for my particular usage of the words ‘cite” and “fore” are obvious. It had nothing to do with the spelling of  those words. It was merely the context in which they were used that made it so angry.

Here’s the part where it failed. AftertheDeadline incorrectly marked the words in quotation marks as being wrong.


The industry is evolving but it is very difficult to handle all the variables wherein proper sentence construction is involved. Spelling is easy. Syntax, on the other hand, is extremely difficult. It was predicted many years ago that we would have translation devices, text to voice, voice to text, and many other applications that would seamlessly turn our lives around in this fashion. Wrong… Decades later, we are still struggling with this enigma. It is, from a programming point of view, a very troubling and complicated problem to solve.

Nevertheless, we have utilities today that will at the very least help you get your grammar into a better state. They are not perfect, but they are better than nothing at all.

A personal note:

I am distressed by the current lack of interest by contemporary writers when it comes to creating proper, grammatically-correct text. There seems to be no respect for the language anymore. This includes and is not limited to modern-day journalists on major news media. Every time one of these so-called professionals makes a stupid mistake, they “teach” the masses that it is OK. Just my opinion.

I saw one major author continually make the old “asterix” error several times within the same article. It wasn’t a typo. This person, who shall remain unnamed, must have thought that “asterix” was a real word. How pathetic. Even a simple spell checker would have caught that error. And perhaps raised a question in the author’s mind?

Asterix is also the name of a web site. I wonder if the owner knows how wrong it is or if he thinks it’s an actual word.

Conclusions

All right, I’ll move on…

“AfterTheDeadline” is a cool utility that seems to catch a lot of these types of mistakes. It also does not catch a lot of mistakes so it is only a partial solution. Something is always better than nothing.

You can get AfterTheDeadline  for various platforms here: AfterTheDeadline

So far, it seems to be working just fine. It catches errors that would not normally be caught by a simple spell checker. This is what I’ve been looking for. I won’t be able to offer a more decisive opinion until I’ve used it for some time. This may be difficult for me since…

I don’t make grammatical errors nor do I make spelling errors, or errors of any sort for that matter, I don’t have much feedback to go on.

There are people out there who might disagree, but how can you argue with a state-of-the-art program such as this?

If any of you think I make errors I would very much like you to point them out. I’m sure I will find some way of denying them and showing you how wrong you are.

“I did make a mistake once. I thought I was wrong, but I wasn’t.”

Richard

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About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

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