LINGUIST List 2.779

Tue 12 Nov 1991

Disc: Grammar Checkers

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Henry Kucera, Re: 2.765 Queries: Text-to-Speech, Grammar Checkers
  2. Herb Stahlke, Grammar checkers

Message 1: Re: 2.765 Queries: Text-to-Speech, Grammar Checkers

Date: Thu, 07 Nov 91 10:37:39 EST
From: Henry Kucera <>
Subject: Re: 2.765 Queries: Text-to-Speech, Grammar Checkers
 This is some information re query about grammar checkers. There are at least
three such products available for personal computers (aside from one program
that runs on Digital's VAX software). All three are sold both for the DOS and
the Macintosh platforms. I have tested them all but since I am primarily a Mac
person, I will reproduce here for you the ranking that they have received from
MacUser, a leading magazine in the US. The highest ranking by a whole "grade"
(4 and a half "mouse" rating) is for Correct Grammar (Lifetree Software, 33
New Montgomery St. San Francisco, CA 94105) Official cost is $99.- but I have
 seen it for less in the discount outlets. Next is Grammatik Mac, 3 and half
mouse rating (Reference Sotware, 330 Townsend St., San Francisco, CA 94107.)
 Listed at $99.- but definitely greatly discounted lately. Last is RightWriter,
 3 mouse ranking (QUE Software, 11711 N. College Ave., Carmel, IN 46032); I
have seen it advertized for as little as $49..
 All of them are for English (American Englihs primarily although Correct
 Grammar is said to have a British version; I haven't seen it). All highlight
errors, supposedly both grammatical (syntactic) and "stylistic", and all make
an attempt to suggest a correction, although it is sometimes vague ("rewrite
this sentence"). One major difference is how many truly syntactic errors they
can catch and correct (which requires a sophisticatd parser) and how much they
focus on "style" (which is usually little more than a list of cliches and
easy to implement). In my view, a product that is predominatly a "style"
checker can be rather annoying since it tends to send inappropriate messages.
All work with major word processors, although only Correct Grammar is
reasonably integrated with most of them.
 Genrally, the MacUser's ranking reflects the degree of the parser's
sophistication as well as the friendliness of the interface.
 I hesitate to give you my personal ranking because I was direclty involved
in the development of a prototype that eventually became part of Correct
Grammar and it would be unfair to criticize the other products. That's why I
am giving you the MacUser ranking. I can assure you, however, of three
experiences in response to your query: A grammar checker MUST include a good
effort to suggest corrections. If it does not or is not specific enough, the
average user (not a linguist) gets terribly frustrated. Second: Keep the
"style" feature reasonable and allow some supposed "style sins" (e.g. passive
voice) to be turned off by the user; overflagging here is VERY annoying.
And third: A Grammar checker should have, as its first routine, a very good
spelling checker. Only the highest ranked of the above three does.
Hope this helps. One final bit of information: Microsoft has announced two
weeks ago a new version of WORD for Windows which will include a more advanced
version of the product underlying Correct Grammar. The Mac version is on the
way, I am told.
 Please keep me posted about your progress. Regards, Henry Kucera
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Message 2: Grammar checkers

Date: Thu, 7 Nov 1991 15:50 EST
Subject: Grammar checkers
A recent, i.e., sometime in the last month, issue of _PC Magazine_ had
an extensive survey and product comparison of a number of PC and Mac
grammar checkers. They included information on their testing
protocols as well as on approaches to grammar checking.
Herb Stahlke
Ball State University
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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 91 07:06 EST
I just purchased an English grammar checker, but have yet to use it,
so I can't evaluate it yet. But it is the KEY GRAMMAR CHECKER put out
by Softkey Software Products, Inc., 21602 North Third Avenue,
Phoenix, AR 85027, Ph: (416)602-5500, Fax: (416)602-0239. This one
is for IBM PC, XT, AT, PS/1, PS/2 and compatibles. It requires
a minimum of 512K, DOS 2.0 or higher. One advantage of this program
is that it is kind of "no name" and cheap. Hope this helps.
Charles Laughlin
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