Thursday, March 4, 2010

Correct All Grammar Errors And Plagiarism!

I was stupid enough to click through to Huffington Post's colossally stupid and fundamentally mistaken Worst Grammar Mistakes Ever post (I refuse to link to it). Of course, the 11 items had virtually nothing to do with grammar (the vast majority were punctuation and spelling errors). I must agree with Zwicky's pessimism regarding National Grammar Day: "It seems to me that the day is especially unlikely to provide a receptive audience for what linguists have to say."

But what prompted this post was the ad at the bottom for Grammarly, a free online "proofreader and grammar coach" which promised to Correct All Grammar Errors And Plagiarism.

A bold claim, indeed. I doubt a team of ten trained linguists could could felicitously make this claim. But the boldness does not stop there (it never does on the innerwebz). Click through to the online tool and wow, the bold claims just start stacking up like flap jacks at a Sunday fundraiser.

Just paste in your test and bam! you get

150+ Grammar Checks
   Get detailed error explanations.
Plagiarism Detection
   Find unoriginal text.
Text Enhancement
   Use better words.
Contextual Spell Check
   Spot misused words.

Dang! Them fancy computers, they sure is smart. Just for funnin, I pasted the text of Zwicky's NGD again post into the window and ran the check. Here's his report:

Not bad for a professor at one of the lesser linguistics departments.

(pssst, btw, did ya spot that odd little grey balloon at the top of the second screen shot? Yeah, me too. It says "click allow if presented with a browser security message." Suspect, no doubt. Nonetheless, I trusted Chrome to protect me and plowed ahead).


Arnold Zwicky said...

Yes, I used a passive, but the two "spelling errors" baffle me; the spellchecker on my Mac finds just one item not in its dictionary: "Zwicky" (which it suggests replacing by "Wick").

Stan said...

Not that I'm immune to stupidity, but I decided against visiting HuffPo's grammar post, guessing that it would be unlikely to either amuse or edify. Your pithy dismissal seems to validate my decision.

I've seen a few of these online prose-fixing services spring up in recent times. They seem to rely on general grammatical ignorance and on people's fear of seeming uneducated. For now at least, I don't see how they could be an effective substitute for a professional editor, i.e. an experienced human.

Chris said...

Unfortunately, Grammarly requires registration to see what the actual "errors" were, so I'm as baffled as you, Arnold ... uh, Mr. Zwicky? Professor Zwicky? Dr. Zwicky? Arnie? (if it were 1988 I'd go with The Zwickster, The Zwickanator, Zwiiiiiiiik, but that joke wore out its welcome with Milli Vanilli and spandex).

I suspect that the rise of these online tools is also associated with the spike in international enrollment at universities, especially here in the States. There are so many ESL/EFL students here now, I'm sure many are willing to shell out a couple bucks for anything they think will help them improve their essay grades. Ripe pickins for the scam artists running those sites.

Anonymous said...

The worst grammar mistake in this article is the use of the nonsensical term 'vast majority'.

Chris said...

Anonymous, I think the HuffPo has a job waiting for you.

Eugene said...

Essay plagiarism checker

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