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#1 2014-09-26 07:26:34

olive
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2008-06-22
Posts: 1,366

Best grammar checker for English.

I am looking for a grammar checker for English. I know it will never be perfect but it can help me by pointing out a possible mistake I have to consider. The best free tool for this seems to be the one of Abiword that exists nowhere else (as far as I know). I have tried LanguageTool but it misses obvious errors like this one:

“It does not see this mistakes.”

(Wrong plural form for mistake).

Any suggestion? It would be nice if at least others look at what Abiword has done. Abiword only signal a possible error without trying to correct it but is already something valuable.

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#2 2014-09-26 07:57:19

clfarron4
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From: London, UK
Registered: 2013-06-28
Posts: 2,162
Website

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

Computerised methods for checking whether you're using "correct" grammar are better than they used to be, but they're all still bad.


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#3 2014-09-26 12:14:41

Trent
Member
From: Baltimore, MD (US)
Registered: 2009-04-16
Posts: 988

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

As a native speaker, I always disable grammar checkers because their "corrections" would actually make my grammar worse.

If you want feedback to improve your English skills, it would be better to submit your work to an online forum for proofreading by real people. Spotting grammar mistakes is one of the few things the Internet is good for, after all. I know there is a subreddit for this but you might find some other place better suited for you.

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#4 2014-09-26 13:02:58

olive
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2008-06-22
Posts: 1,366

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

Trent wrote:

As a native speaker, I always disable grammar checkers because their "corrections" would actually make my grammar worse.

If you want feedback to improve your English skills, it would be better to submit your work to an online forum for proofreading by real people. Spotting grammar mistakes is one of the few things the Internet is good for, after all. I know there is a subreddit for this but you might find some other place better suited for you.

I happen to be often distracted and forget plural forms or the "s" in the third person singular. I know that good grammar checkers can at least see these kinds of errors, then I am the only judge to accept them or not. It won't correct everything but it is at least something.

One of the reason I want a grammar checker is to write on these forums and obviously, I won't submit every posts I make for proofreading.

I am a native French speaker and I have a commercial grammar checker for French that is able to correct about 90% of grammar mistakes and tell something stupid about 10% of the time. This is commercial and rather expensive, but it shows what is technically possible.

My opinion of these tools is that they are very useful if you know how to use them; that is at each suggestion, think about twice and accept the correction if you know the software is right.

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#5 2014-09-26 14:14:15

ANOKNUSA
Member
Registered: 2010-10-22
Posts: 2,141

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

Free tip from a long-time tutor, olive: Print out your writing, and find some place where you feel comfortable reading your writing out loud. You can also silently mouth the words to yourself instead, if that makes you more comfortable, but reading out loud is better. Since you already have an idea of what your weaknesses with the language are, the combination of seeing, hearing and saying what you have on paper simultaneously should make a far better semantic and grammatic filter than any piece of software.

I tend to disable grammar checking for the same reasons Trent does. Just because I stick a period somewhere doesn't mean I'm making a full-stop, thank you.

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#6 2014-09-26 14:52:10

Trent
Member
From: Baltimore, MD (US)
Registered: 2009-04-16
Posts: 988

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

olive wrote:

One of the reason I want a grammar checker is to write on these forums and obviously, I won't submit every posts I make for proofreading.

Understood.

Just a suggestion: if you're open to being corrected here, you could add something to your signature along those lines. Some people do.

I am a native French speaker and I have a commercial grammar checker for French that is able to correct about 90% of grammar mistakes and tell something stupid about 10% of the time. This is commercial and rather expensive, but it shows what is technically possible.

Technically possible? Maybe for French, but that doesn't say much about English. (I don't speak French, so I will consider generalities that apply to both Spanish and Latin.) Since English verbs typically come in only four-ish forms (walk, walks, walked, walking) and many words can be either nouns or verbs as the situation demands ("walk/walks" being a good example, but "mistake", from your first post, is another), there is a lot of room for ambiguity that software simply can't resolve.

Consider the sentence you used earlier, "It does not see this mistakes". An intelligent audience would probably realize "this mistakes" was meant to be a noun phrase and suggest "this mistake" (or "these mistakes"), but grammatically, "this mistakes" could be a (somewhat awkward) relative clause with "mistakes" being a verb and "this" a pronoun. Compare "I do not think it understands", in which "it understands" is the relative clause. If I read it that way, the "correction" becomes wrong.

True, it's unlikely that a real person would use "mistake" like that, but the point is, you can't disambiguate that sentence based purely on syntax; you have to have some idea what it means. And you need a lot of that semantic knowledge in order to spot errors 90% of the time.

My opinion of these tools is that they are very useful if you know how to use them; that is at each suggestion, think about twice and accept the correction if you know the software is right.

My experience has been that every single time a grammar checker "corrects" me, I am right and the software is wrong.[1] That's likely not true for everyone. But with sentences like the example above, you might just be running into the limit of what's possible to check, with existing technology, without throwing perfectly good English under the bus. I doubt there is any tool that checks English grammar with more than 50% accuracy.

[1] This is not quite fair. I have made subtle grammatical mistakes and found them because of grammar checkers. Nevertheless, the software invariably suggests "fixing" it in a way that either changes the meaning or actually makes the rest of the sentence un-grammatical.

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#7 2014-09-26 15:26:50

ewaller
Administrator
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: 2009-07-13
Posts: 15,195

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

olive wrote:

I am a native French speaker and I have a commercial grammar checker for French that is able to correct about 90% of grammar mistakes and tell something stupid about 10% of the time. This is commercial and rather expensive, but it shows what is technically possible.

First, allow me to say that your English is better than many of those who are native speakers.  I admire (and envy) anyone who is multilingual.  Doubly so for those capable of participating in a technical discussion rather than mere conversation.   I am not a linguist, but I think that your quest might be complicated by my assertion that English is a mess.  No offense to England, but the language seems to be a hodge podge of every group that have ever occupied Britain.  With Germanic, Latin, Norse, Welsh and Gaelic cultures all adding to the stew.  It has also been tortured and twisted by those of us in North America.  Note that this is my model of the world, it may not be completely accurate smile

Given that, English has more exceptions than rules.  That makes automated checking a difficult challenge.


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#8 2014-10-04 11:51:48

chickenPie4tea
Member
Registered: 2012-08-21
Posts: 306

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

Hmm and what are you going to check your pronunciation with? smile
In my experience, when talking to non native speakers it's bad pronunciation that makes them hard to understand.
Native speakers often get their grammer wrong.


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#9 2014-10-04 13:24:46

drcouzelis
Member
From: Connecticut, USA
Registered: 2009-11-09
Posts: 3,825
Website

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

I just had a thought (and only a thought...) but the best grammar checker "for Linux" might be something like a small Python wrapper to something like a Google grammar API (similar to some Linux sound-to-text converters). Does anything like that exist? smile

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#10 2014-10-04 16:55:09

MoonSwan
Member
From: Great White North
Registered: 2008-01-23
Posts: 873

Re: Best grammar checker for English.

ewaller wrote:

First, allow me to say that your English is better than many of those who are native speakers.  I admire (and envy) anyone who is multilingual.  Doubly so for those capable of participating in a technical discussion rather than mere conversation.   I am not a linguist, but I think that your quest might be complicated by my assertion that English is a mess.  No offense to England, but the language seems to be a hodge podge of every group that have ever occupied Britain.  With Germanic, Latin, Norse, Welsh and Gaelic cultures all adding to the stew.  It has also been tortured and twisted by those of us in North America.  Note that this is my model of the world, it may not be completely accurate smile

Given that, English has more exceptions than rules.  That makes automated checking a difficult challenge.

I will second ewaller's opinion on this because I understand both parts of his argument.  I do speak fluent French (but I admit it needs improvement too!) and I just finished a Bachelor of Communications Studies degree (guess what we do a lot of ... writing of course!).  ewaller's assesment of your language skills is also spot on, imo.  Your English is not perfect but it is a damn sight better than some of my fellow scribes whose work I had, at times, to collaborate with to render a paper or story into something approaching legibility/readability.  One girl in particular in my classes wrote English at what seemed to me to be about a grade 7 level.  She's in university doing a writing program (a pre-cursor to my degree it was called a "Professional Writing" Diploma course) and her writing was atrocious! 

Anyway, sorry for the off-topic and I hope you find your skills improving with or without a grammar checker.  smile


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