Don’t Rely Too Much on Your Grammar Checker

The first thing I do when I get a new word processing program is disable the grammar checker.

Grammar checkers miss errors sometimes and other times they tell you things are wrong that aren’t. Why? Because the software can’t critically think and discern meaning in your writing. Software can do what it’s programmed to do.

Some things computer programs have difficulting finding are:

  • Vague pronoun references (when you refer to this and it in your writing, you may know what you mean, but your reader doesn’t)

Example of error typically not caught: This is the best we’ve ever heard. (What is?)

  • Tense shift (keep the tense consistent in the same sentence and paragraph)

Example of error typically not caught: I feel better after I wrote to my best friend. (Feel is present tense and wrote is past tense.)

  • Incorrect use of the possessive apostrophe (apostrophe goes after the “s” in plural possessive and before the “s” in singular possessive)

Example of error typically not caught: The writer’s association is made up of published writers.  (Writer’s is singular possessive. Writers’ is plural possessive.)

  • Pronoun agreement error (the pronoun should be singular when the antecedent it refers to is singular)

Example of error typically not caught: The employee was late when they forgot to set the alarm clock.  (Pronoun–they– is plural while antecedent– employee– is singular.)

Well, you get the idea. Grammar checkers serve a purpose, but don’t count on them too much.

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