authors, Editing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Automated Grammar (Part 7)

The idea of Grammar Check must  have been invented by computer programmers who thought grammar is like math.  The problem is, it isn’t. Many words can function as different parts of speech. In math, a two is a two; in grammar, lead can be a noun (the chemical element) or a verb (the act of guiding someone on his way). You have to read the word in context to identify how it functions in a particular sentence.

That is why Grammar Check can often suggest something that may not be appropriate. It can handle the sentence “See spot run,” but for any sentence more complicated than that, Grammar Check simply cannot be trusted. In fact, it’s so bad that most editors recommend you don’t use it at all, because it could make you think a correct sentence is incorrect. It’s not second best; it’s worse than not copyediting at all.

Grammar Check can often suggest something that may not be appropriate

Let me give you an example. In the two sentences below, Grammar Check found two supposed mistakes. The problem is there is nothing wrong with either of the  sentences.

Either make any additional changes to the text as you see fit or simply disregard the comment.

Grammar Check advises: “Either makes any additional changes …”

Before proceeding please be sure you have saved your manuscript to the hard drive of the computer.

Grammar Check advises: “Before proceeding please is sure you saved the manuscript …”

As you can see, without human intervention, Grammar Check would make the sentence incorrect or not make sense. That is why you want to use a human being and not a machine to make your manuscript as good as it can be. For tips on how to find an editor, see my last post titled, Six tips for finding the right editor for your book.

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2 thoughts on “Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Automated Grammar (Part 7)

  1. The reason grammar check flagged ‘be’ is because you forgot your comma after ‘Before proceeding.’

    Before proceeding, please be sure you have saved your manuscript to the hard drive of the computer.

    When I added the comma in Word 2010, the flag disappeared.

    This was a good post, but I somewhat disagree that grammar check is entirely useless. It has alerted me on several occasions to an error. It can be of use as long as one realizes its limitations. When it flags something in my ms, I simply read over the sentence, right click and see what Word says about it, check the rules if I’m unsure, and then make a decision.

    In the above example, grammar check’s solution wasn’t correct, but there was an error in the sentence.

    • keithogorek says:

      Thanks for your comments. You are correct. Maybe I have been a bit too harsh on grammar check. It can be useful, but it is still valuable to have an editor review the manuscript.

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