Grammar Editing Software

by David Dugas Jr

Question: Is there a free link or software I can use that helps editing my grammar for my writing?

Answer: Plenty of websites and companies offer grammar checkers, but most of them aren't worth the effort. Computers can't even check spelling with 100% accuracy, which is a much simpler task. For instance, if you meant to write "dessert" but typed "desert" by mistake, the spellcheck won't spot the error.

The problem is that computers don't actually understand what language means. They can be programmed to spot particular sequences of characters in a document, but so far they do not understand the context in which words and phrases appear.

Take the common task of making sure the subject and verb agree in number. If a software program can't spot the subject of a sentence (which it often doesn't), it can't tell if the verb should be singular or plural.

Another problem is that that many English words can be either nouns or verbs, depending on the context (e.g. "program," "wrench," or "target"), which makes it difficult for a software program to even recognize which word in a sentence is the verb.

Grammar software can help with a few tasks, such as spotting cliched phrases or sentences beginning with "There is." It can tell if your sentences are above average in length. It might even help you spot passive verbs. But you could probably do this on your own with nothing more than the "search" command in your word processor and your own understanding of language.

The best ways to avoid grammar errors are...

1. Brush up on your grammar. There are plenty of books that can help you. Sure, it may take a little effort, but the knowledge will stay with you for the rest of your life. The ability to use good grammar is one of those basic skills a writer should have.

2. Get a friend who knows their grammar to proofread your manuscript.

3. Put some distance between you and your manuscript before you proofread. Set it aside for a week or more and then read through it just for grammar. Another technique is to read the manuscript backwards, one paragraph at a time, which forces you to ignore the story and just focus on finding errors.

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